Economy

Storm brews in medicine container

Satyanarayan Iyer Mumbai | Updated on December 27, 2013

Plastic container makers have urged the Health Ministry to reconsider itsdecision to ban plastic bottles used in packaging medicines. — M. Moorthy

Glass or plastic



A health controversy is brewing in the plastic container that holds your cough syrup or medicine.

Plastic container makers have urged the Health Ministry to reconsider the plan to ban plastic bottles used in packaging medicines. Their plea follows a recent Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) recommendation to replace plastic containers with glass bottles.

The DTAB suggestion came after concerns were raised from some quarters over plastic leaching from the containers onto the medicine.

Unhappy with the recommendation, the PET Container Manufacturers Association (PCMA) said: “While recommending the ban, the DTAB has totally ignored the fact that PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a legally accepted packaging material globally.”

Pointing out that studies are inconclusive on the adverse effects, PCMA President Biswajit Ghosh said plans to ban the use of plastic bottles in medicine packaging have been defeated in five High Courts.

“Even the Supreme Court had squashed a public interest litigation challenging the use of PET bottles,” the PCMA said.

The DTAB had suggested that drug companies be given six months to phase out plastic. But if the law does indeed move in that direction, “we will be again forced to approach the court of law”, said Ghosh.

Outlining the benefits of glass, Vinit Kapur, Joint Secretary with All India Glass Manufacturers’ Federation, said: “There is no leaching when medicines are packed in glass bottles. Also, glass bottles have more shelf-life and are environment-friendly, as glass is 100 per cent recyclable.”

PET peeve

The issue came up after a non-governmental organisation — HIM Jagriti of the Uttaranchal Welfare Society — submitted a representation to the Health Ministry suggesting a complete ban on the use of PET bottles (both coloured and uncoloured) as primary packaging material in pharmaceutical liquid orals, suspensions and dry syrups, claiming that it has severe adverse effects on human health due to the presence of endocrine disruptors.

The DTAB then constituted an expert committee to examine and generate scientific data on the issue. An expert on this committee, Y.K. Gupta, Professor and Head of Department of Pharmacology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said more research is required to establish that plastic bottles are indeed detrimental to the medicines packed in them.

“As on date, there is no sufficient evidence if there can be leaching of plastic bottles,” Gupta said. These containers are usually made of high quality plastic, he said, adding a detailed study was required to prove the possibility of leaching in a “scale that can cause damage”.

At Indian summer temperatures of 40-45 degrees, he adds, it needs to be further examined in detail if leaching is more. “We had said there is no need to panic. However, the government in its wisdom wanted to be extra cautious and went ahead with the ban.”

> satyanarayan.iyer@thehindu.co.in

Published on December 27, 2013

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