Popular cough syrups and cold and flu medicines such as Pfizer’s Corex and Piramal’s Saridon, which were banned by the government on March 10, are likely to be available in the market till next Monday.
These medicines got an extended relief after the Delhi high court decided on Monday to hear pleas of pharma majors challenging the government’s ban on the sale of 344 fixed-dose combination drugs on March 28.
Justice RS Endlaw of the high court had earlier temporarily stayed the bar on sale of some medicines, including P and G’s Vicks Action 500 and Reckitt’s D’Cold that are widely used to treat a headache or a runny nose.
The Centre defended its decision and requested the court to lift the stay, saying these medicines are potential health and safety hazards.
The interim relief to pharma companies will go against public interest and endanger patient safety, the government said, underlining how advanced western nations have not approved cough syrups such as Corex but these are sold in India.
“The petition has been filed only to gain time and obstruct the government,” the affidavit said.
The ban, which will impact over 6,000-odd brands, is aimed at curbing the misuse of medicines in the country, where nearly half the drugs sold in 2014 were fixed-dose combinations.
Inconsistent enforcement of drug laws has led to the proliferation of hundreds of medicines based on approval from regulators of individual states, rather than the Union government.
The government said licences for manufacture and sale of such drugs were obtained between 1988 and 2012 from state authorities without seeking the approval of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).
An expert committee had recommended a blanket ban on cough syrups such as Abbott’s Phensedyl, which are rampantly misused as an addictive drug and smuggled to neighbouring countries.
Justice Endlaw directed the government to provide the expert committee report to the pharma companies that have filed the petition.