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Private companies to process opium in India to produce codeine

Codeine is one of the most sought opium products by the Indian pharmaceutical industry, to make cough syrups. And, despite having some of the largest opium fields in the world, India annually imports about 30 tonnes of codeine.

Last year, the government decided to allow private pharma companies to process opium and manufacture opium-based drugs. Two of the country's leading pharma companies, Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy's and Mumbai-based Piramal Healthcare (formerly Nicholas Piramal) were given permission to process opium to produce substances to be used in drugs.  This move comes after six-decade as a result of change in govt. policy. Currently, the Government Opium and Alkaloids Factory (GOAF), an arm of the Ministry of Finance, department of revenue, manufactures and sells opium and its alkaloids. There are two manufacturing units located at Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh and at Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh.

Now it seems, Piramal Healthcare will be the first to process opium and is set to  process by 2010. It has tied up with a US company for technology and is setting up a plant in Baddi in Himachal Pradesh with an investment of Rs. 700 million to Rs.1000 million. Major export market for processed opium is US and Japan.

Govt. to open pharma retail outlets

Govt. assisted retails stores are to be opened across the country. These stores will be branded as ‘Jan Aushadhi’ and it will be operated 24x7 and these will be self-sustained units but will operate closely with Govt. health units initially. Bureau of Public Enterprises will streamline the process in consultation with state governments and NGO’s.

Current plan is to launch 20-40 JA stores across states. A clear picture will emerge later next month. The USP of these stores will be that they will sell unbranded medicines which will be substantially cheaper. (eg. New generation anti-biotic costs Rs.150 in private will cost Rs.30 here)
Some factors that could undermine this process could be bureaucratic delays and lack of clear substitution for branded medicines. 

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