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A @gateshealth visit in a time of spin

According to the Times of India, the Gates Foundation sent a team from the USA to explore “an opportunity with the Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) to source high quality, affordable drugs from India. These drugs would be made available to poor patients across the world.” Given that the Foundation spends rather a lot of time on this subject (and has expert advisers across the world), this might seem an improbably simplistic explanation for a visit to the regulatory authority in Gujarat. But the visit didn’t just stop here: the Americans also wanted, “to understand the unique functioning of Gujarat’s innovative regulatory mechanism.”

“It is a very proud moment for the state’s pharma industry and overall a big achievement for Gujarat. The visit reaffirms Gujarat’s pharma capabilities.” said Dr H G Koshia, commissioner of the  Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration.

No doubt there was a visit and a presentation and that the Foundation probably is interested in Gujarat’s prolific generics industry but it’s very unlikely that this was a groundbreaking summit on supplying “poor patients across the world.”

There may also have been a link to the succession of pharma scandals in India, many of them in neighbouring Maharashtra and a few in Gujarat itself.

What happened to the reporting? Part of the answer lies in a fascinating and very detailed article in the current edition of Open Magazine on how the State of Gujarat’s PR operation works. There is a relentless effort to get maximum value from any PR opportunity in national and international press. It is probably a good lesson for any visitors to Gujarat at a time when the state is so determined to present itself as the powerhouse of India’s economic development


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