Health Policy

US seeks India’s help to improve global healthcare

The US is seeking additional scientific, regulatory and technical collaboration with India as a means to improve healthcare outcomes for patients around the world.

Sharing his aspirations for such collaboration, US Health Secretary Michael O Leavitt described how India’s burgeoning spice industry has adopted market principles to ensure access to US markets.

At a meeting hosted by the US-India Business Council to brief industry leaders about his recent five-day visit to India, Leavitt referred to what he called the “red pepper principle”, which encourages the market, not regulatory enforcement, to foster international best practices and quality control.

Important to consumers worldwide, he expressed confidence that with the entrepreneurial synergies inherent in the US-India relationship, the ‘market before mandate’ approach to self-regulation will be a successful model that will foster greater trade while ensuring safety and quality.

USIBC President Ron Somers said, “Leavitt has taken a lead role in advancing the healthcare partnership between these two dynamic democracies, and we are hopeful this will result in increased regulatory harmonisation.”

“Having launched the Coalition for Healthy India, USIBC looks forward to continued engagement with Secretary Leavitt’s team as we work towards raising the standard of patient care, the development of new treatments and cures, ensuring access and affordability, getting medicines safely to patients, and promoting corporate social responsibility,” he said.

A central goal of the Coalition for Healthy India is to foster greater regulatory harmonisation between the US and India, resulting in decreased costs and increased patient safety.

Leavitt said he had also indicated to India that the US Food and Drug Administration would like to have positions in the American embassy and its other posts in India given the deepening and widening relationship in this area.

The FDA plans to begin carrying out checks on Chinese food products following approval from the State Department. To do so the agency will create eight new positions at US diplomatic missions throughout China over the next two years subject to final approval from Beijing.

“We have also initiated conversations with the Indian Government on the need to have similar kinds of officers in India,” Leavitt said noting that more FDA approvals are coming out of India than any other country in the world.

“We did not reach agreement; we did not seek an agreement; we are not actively negotiating. But we did make clear that part of our plan in the future would be to work toward that,” the official said. “It won’t happen overnight but it is a high priority.”

In the context of the emerging trade relations between India and the US, it would be very important to have such an arrangement, he said suggesting the new concept of “rolling borders back” to have product safety implemented in originating countries has already struck roots in India.

Noting the US get imports from 825,000 different sources, through over 300 ports-of-entry, Leavitt said it is simply impossible to check everything that is coming into the US short of bringing global commerce to a grinding halt.

“This is a very large, very complex sector of our economy. We’re going to import $2 trillion worth of goods just this year. And it’s growing. There’re some estimates that would suggest that by 2015 we’ll see three times the amount of imports we have today” he added.

“The key to product safety in the future will be transparent, interoperable systems in which people know who does and who doesn’t produce goods that are safe and effective. The role of government is to support, not dictate that process,” Leavitt said.

“Coming up with the right standards is hard, messy work. The only way to get it done is to collaborate with one another,” he said.


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