News Feature | December 16, 2014

IDMA Objects To Government's Proposal To Ban Plastic Drug Containers

By Suzanne Hodsden

The Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA) wrote to the ministry of health and family welfare to voice their concern over the health minister’s proposed ban of plastic containers as drug packaging in India, the Financial Express reports.

In September, at the prompting of a non-profit group, the Indian health ministry drafted a proposal that would effectively ban the use of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in liquid oral formulations of drugs indicated for pediatric, geriatric, and reproductive health uses.

Their reasoning was supported by studies which found that PET secretes cancer-inducing chemicals when subjected to India’s extremely hot climate.

Hemant Thacker, physician at Breach Candy hospital told DNA India, “In PET bottles, the temperature in which it is kept is not monitored. There is documentary evidence that the components of the PET bottle tend to get into the medicine solution which has a cascading impact on the patient’s health.”

DNA India reports that many doctors and NGOs back the government’s decision to ban the plastic in favor of glass.

Drug makers argue that glass is not a feasible solution and voiced their concerns in a letter drafted by the IDMA.

One of the first concerns they list is an inevitable increase in price, which the IDMA predicts will be close to a 30 percent increase per bottle.

The letter states, “Transportation costs and packaging costs of corrugated boxes will drastically increase due to increased weight of glass bottles and during transport breakages will add to the costs.”

Additionally, the IDMA claims that the Indian glass industry is probably not currently capable of handling the demand, and supply issues will leave smaller pharma companies unable to afford their packaging.

From an economic standpoint, India’s plastics industry also has a lot to lose. Business Standard reports that pharmaceutical plastics represent 16 percent of India’s overall plastics production, and that 200 small and medium-size PET converters have started shutting down operations as a result of the draft.

Furthermore, Kyra Mumbauer, senior director of the Society of the Plastics Industry, believes that concerns about PET plastics are based on faulty data and argues that many Western nations import Indian medications packaged in plastic with little concern.

If the ban moves forward, it is set to go into effect in March of next year.