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Breather for pharma firms as barcode deadline may be extended

Drug makers want loans to implement tech

Drug-makers may get a breather as the July deadline for barcoding primary products for exports is likely to be extended.

The Centre is inclined to extend this deadline in an effort to address cost and technical concerns of drug-makers, an official familiar with the development told Business Line.

Details on the date extension are likely to be outlined by late March, said Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) Director-General P. V. Appaji, confirming that the Government has indicated that industry will get more time to barcode primary products.

The three-tier system to barcode exports on tertiary cartons, secondary packs and primary products was mandated by the Government after “Made-in-India” counterfeit medicines, which had originated in China, surfaced in Nigeria.

The track-and-trace system seeks to protect the reputation of Indian drug exports, expected to touch Rs 75,000 crore this March. The system helps keep track of export consignments, ensuring that the supply-chain is not compromised.

BANK HELP

Since the cost of installing equipment for coding is a key issue for small and medium drug-exporters, Pharmexcil has taken this up with the Exim Bank, Appaji said. If it is the nodal bank, knowing “A to Z” of the scheme, it could facilitate loans required by the small exporters to help comply with the barcode norm, he added.

Data are also being compiled on the cost of installing barcoding equipment so that the Government can extend financial assistance to small and medium companies.

INTER-MINISTERIAL GROUP

Small and medium drug exporters are still getting their act together; they were to have barcoded secondary level packaging by January.

Drug associations had earlier taken the issue to the court, saying that barcodes were not fool-proof and expensive to implement. But in December, the court cast upheld the Government position, leaving drug-makers to scramble and fall in line.

With the diktat here to stay for now, the Centre is setting up an inter-ministerial group to address unresolved technicalities raised by drug-makers.

The firms are, for instance, still confused on the definition of secondary packs or whether barcodes are required even if the importing country does not need it. Barcoding gets even more intricate, when it comes to small bottles and ampoules used with injectables, an exporter pointed out.

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