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India drug scare = U.S. protectionism?

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on September 23, 2008

According to the Economic Times, there are Indians wondering about what the U.S. is really up to by banning the import of 30 drugs by Ranbaxy. The FDA announced the ban last week, citing irregularities at two of the company’s Indian plants. (See this Eye on Asia item from Sept. 17 for more on that.) The Economic Times (a content partner of BusinessWeek, which runs some of its articles on our Asia Channel) reports people suspect the FDA is a tool of Big Pharma companies afraid of competitors from India: “Some in the pharmaceutical industry believe that the ban could be a ploy by the US pharma lobby to discourage Indian drug manufacturers. The Indian formulations used for treating serious diseases such as AIDS are several times cheaper than those manufactured by the US companies.”

I think they better get some new talking points. Crying protectionism might work for domestic consumption, but that argument isn’t going to fly overseas. During the peak of last year’s Made-in-China scare, the FDA got slammed for not doing enough to protect American consumers from shoddy Asian-made products. Now, at a time when babies are dying in China from milk tainted with industrial chemicals, U.S. regulators don’t need pressure from American drugmakers to remind them of the need to watch Asian imports carefully. Alleging a plot by U.S. companies as an explanation for Ranbaxy’s woes isn’t going to change many minds.

Reader Comments

Jalal Alamgir

September 23, 2008 11:03 AM

I agree here. Granted, the US is by no means an exemplary free trader and its protectionism of industries has deprived poorer countries of fair market access since WW2--but in this case where Ranbaxy already had market access a better strategy for the company would be to vigorously defend the quality of its products instead of crying conspiracy. But it should also be noted that big Pharma has been creating pressures on FDA for some time now to focus more on drug imports. Companies do that, it's expected.

Jalal Alamgir


September 24, 2008 12:59 AM

First they lost the IP to Ranbaxy. Now they are using FDA. With a new bail out plan that agency may close down. Where will these pharma lobbies be? I guess, pharma companies may gain enormously by allowing Ranbaxy to expand the market. No wonder US needs a change. A change in their thinking. By the way, how much would Ranbaxy lose by not entering directly into the US? How would FDA stop americans to buy the same outside US? Ah right, as they stopped americans to buy canadian drugs.


September 24, 2008 3:35 AM

I wonder why then the EU has not banned imports of Ranbaxy? If Ranbaxy was indeed making substandard drugs, ideally the EU would have also banned it's imports.

You don't expect much anyways when the members of a playing team are on the referee panel. But still it's kind of funny how it is deemed fair by the US media which is supposed to be unbiased.

garbage journalism

September 24, 2008 1:50 PM

the FDA got slammed for not doing enough to protect American consumers from shoddy Asian-made products.

wow, talk about the overgeneralization here from the xenophobic bruce einhorn. what exactly are these asian made product that western countries are so afraid of. aren't samsung, toshiba, sony, lg, hyundai, toyota asian made products and yet you lump them in all together. work on your journalism, bruce and work harder to cover up your racism.

it's like saying that germany represents all of europe.


September 25, 2008 7:59 PM

On top of all the dirty politics that American drug companies are playing, China's repeated incidents (tainted toys, contaminated milk and other substandard products) are tarnishing the image of whole Asia's manufacturing capabilities.


October 5, 2008 11:04 AM

Among all Indian companies, I worry Ranbaxy the most. It will not hurt much when Indian low end coders deliver junk computer codes. However, medicines are totally different animals. Indians urinate and defecate in the open everywhere, on the street, in the river and yes on the top of train. For heavens sake, we should ban generics made by those hands! Check @

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