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Government plans database of drugs to prevent use of similar brand names
The Economic Times, November 29, 2018


NEW DELHI: The government is considering a databank for all medicine brands to prevent pharmaceutical companies from using the same or similar looking and sounding brand names for drugs, especially those used to treat different conditions, senior officials close to the development said.

The Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), the country’s highest drug advisory body, will discuss a mechanism to this effect at its meeting on Thursday because the problem is extensive and spread across the country, they told ET. A 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Clinical Practice had found that more than 10,000 medicine brands in India were either similar looking or similar sounding.

What is even more alarming, an industry insider said, in some instances, the same brand name has even been used to market formulations used to treat different conditions altogether. For instance, the brand “Medzole” has been used to market at least four different kinds of medications, including an antifungal, an antibiotic and a medication for stomach acid problems.

“This is dangerous, because the patient might accidentally be taking a medicine that they are not supposed to be consuming and which could cause unwanted side effects or health problems for them,” the person told ET on condition of anonymity.

There is a high possibility that medicines for different medical conditions are sold with the same or similar brand names without the government’s knowledge, and patient safety could be compromised if they purchase the wrong medicine due to confusion, officials said.

For example, ‘Bromolin’, a respiratory tract infection antibiotic marketed by Cipla, sounds similar to ‘Bromotin’, a drug marketed by RPG Life Sciences for the treatment of Parkinson disease.

Vitamin B capsules marketed by both Curewell Drugs & Pharmaceuticals and Ridley Life Science sport the same brand name — Bevital. The issue caused Curewell to file a trademark infringement lawsuit against Ridley earlier this year.

“The government is taking this seriously, because it is confusing for patients and doctors when the same brand name is used for different drugs,” a senior official cited earlier told ET.

According to the official, DTAB may consider a centralised database for all drug brands to ensure that a brand name registered for a product to treat one condition cannot be used for another product. The database may also help the government prevent companies from marketing their medicines with brand names already registered and used by another company, the official said.

At present, neither the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), India’s apex drug regulatory body, nor the trademarks office have any control over the medicine brand and trade names, another person close to the development said.

DTAB will, therefore, consider a proposal to amend the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules to include provisions to allow CDSCO’s central and state licencing authorities to regulate medicine brand and trade names, the person told ET.

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