The story of the pill

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Is a pill, just a pill? Most definitely not. In the first of a series of six articles, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) launches the Know Your Pill initiative, to educate patients on the untold story of the medicine and the intrinsic value of quality that make a pill much more than just a pill

Have you ever heard the story of the pill?

20180531ep04As we set out to tell you the fascinating story of the pill from the lab to the market, we recognise that some of the chapters in this story would read- A pill is more than just a pill; Good medicines come in quality packages; The journey of the Pill; The Pill House and finally The Rotten Pill.

Each time we pop a pill, feed syrup to littles ones, vaccinate our babies or inject a medicine into our critically-ill loved ones, the most obvious is the hope that all the above will work. But, we are totally oblivious to the untold story of the medicine. While it owes its existence to research and discovery, the intrinsic value of the pill in its living form lies in its quality. Quality does not confine itself to manufacturing only. It includes packaging, labelling, transportation and storage of a medicine. All of these elements in the supply chain are critical for a medicine to retain its effectiveness.

Quality in general is a comparison to standards. Pharmaceutical quality is very specific because for each pharma product like a tablet or capsule, there are specifications. And within tablets there are individual specifications for each individual product. There is a specification for each pharma dosage form and there is also a quality specification for each therapy area product that they need to comply to if one says that these products are meeting the quality specifications.

Packaging and labelling of medicine is critical. Uniform standard needs to be adhered to, in terms of aesthetics as well as functionality of the medicine, to ensure patient safety is not compromised.

The journey of the pill from the factory to where the pill will be housed, or the pharmacy, needs to be strictly adhered to as it can alter the efficacy of the drug. Fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels can render pills less effective. Temperature-controlled supply chain including transportation and warehousing need to be complaint to acceptable quality standards for the drug to maintain the chemical balance in the human body. The presence of the pill in the pill house needs to follow standards of storage: the way it is shelfed and arranged, the temperature conditions at the pharmacy, the display of medicines, cannot be under -valued.

Finally, we have the problem of the rotten apple, or rotten pill as in the case of medicines holds true. According to WHO estimates, one in 10 medical products circulating in low- and middle-income countries are either substandard or falsified. That includes pills, vaccines and diagnostic kits.

Another concurrent concern are counterfeits which pose a huge threat to patient safety. A stringent use of the law on sale of spurious drugs and constant surveillance to weed the rotten pills would be most needed.

Sub-standard quality especially in medicines is unacceptable. Millions of people all over the world are alive and in good health today because they have ‘trusted’ the pill to do its job. Trust that is a result of doctor patient relationship and in the pill that is expected to do its work. Good manufacturing practices, good distribution practices, good storage practices and good quality control practices make for a ‘good’ pill. Thus, making for a good end to the story of the pill being more than just a pill!

-Issued in public interest by OPPI

Watch this space for the second in the KYP series – Why a pill is more than just a pill?