Gelatin-makers find themselves in a soup

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on January 08, 2018

Sajiv K Menon, Managing Director, Nitta Gelatin India   -  BL

Plans are afoot to replace gelatin capsules with a semi-synthetic chemical

The gelatin industry is keeping its fingers crossed over the reported move to replace gelatin with HPMC (Hydroxy Propyl Methyl Cellulose), a semi-synthetic chemical.

Raising apprehensions, Sajiv K Menon, Managing Director, Nitta Gelatin India Ltd, the Indo-Japanese JV, told BusinessLine that HPMC is a product traditionally used in the construction industry and can be used for making capsules after further processing. Gelatin is a natural product and has been in existence for more than 150 years, while HPMC is a recent entrant.

Clinical trials

The safety of gelatin has been established beyond doubt, whereas many questions remain on the long-term effects of HPMC. Capsules made out of gelatin are used to treat chronic illnesses, and there are no safety issues as they get digested easily. But HPMC is a semi-synthetic product, and there is a need to carry out clinical trials before introducing it to the pharmaceutical sector. According to Menon, each and every formulation, which is currently sold as a gelatin capsule, has to undergo clinical trials before replacing it with HPMC. Apart from the higher cost of HPMC and reliance on imports , the cost of the clinical trials would ultimately have to be passed on to the patients.

The Drug Controller General of India has constituted a committee to examine the whole issue in consultation with all stakeholders such as pharma, gelatin industry etc.

Of the 20,000 tonnes of gelatin production in the country, Menon said that 95 per cent are used for capsule production and the remaining by the processed-food industry in India. Apart from capsule production, almost 60 per cent of gelatin produced globally is used in processed foods and desserts and conform to the highest safety standards.

Published on October 17, 2017

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