US 'not targeting' India, says FDA chief

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US regulators are not targeting India, despite a series of import restrictions on drugs from the major US trading partner, the head of the US Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg briefed reporters after her first official trip to India, where she met with government and industry leaders earlier this month.

India is the second largest US supplier of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and its big pharma companies Ranbaxy and Wockhardt have faced a series of US import restrictions over safety concerns.

"We are not targeting Indian countries. We are undertaking our required regulatory activities," Ms Hamburg said.

"When products are sold in the United States for use by American citizens, then those products have to meet our standards." While in New Delhi, Ms Hamburg and the Indian health ministry signed their first statement of intent to cooperate in the field of medical products.

Ms Hamburg described as "encouraging" her conversations with high level representatives during her eight-day trip to India, the United States' third largest trading partner.

The FDA has 12 staff members in India, and plans to expand to 19, she added, describing the nation as "particularly important" to US food and drug trade.

"The fact that we have increased our presence in India is true but it reflects that fact that India is a very significant and growing player in the US marketplace with respect to both pharmaceutical products and food."

At the start of Ms Hamburg's visit, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said India's lower cost medicines should not be viewed as "cheap and spurious." India's generics industry is a major supplier of lifesaving drugs to the United States and over 200 other nations, many of them lower-income countries.

In January, the FDA suspended imports from a fourth manufacturing plant for one of India's biggest drugmakers, Ranbaxy, over violations from expected "good manufacturing practice." Earlier Friday, the US regulator issued its first ever ban on tobacco products on four varieties of hand-rolled cigarettes called bidis by an Indian company headquartered in Illinois, Jash International.

The United States last year also raised concern about high rates of contaminants, including salmonella, in Indian spices.

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