The WHO-funded modernization of Tamil Nadu drug testing laboratory is almost complete and will be inaugurated soon by the Tamil Nadu Drugs Control Department. The laboratory, established in a new building, has been equipped with sophisticated instruments. The construction of building for the project was funded by World Bank, while the equipment and instruments were provided by the central government.

"Previously the Lab was following chemical method for testing and analysis, but now 99 per cent of the test is done by instrumental method. With its limited resources, the present laboratory is able to handle over 3,000 samples a year. Whereas, with the upgraded services, it is hoped that more than 5,000 samples would be tested each year. The upgraded drug-testing services will be ready by early next year," sources said.

Recently, the drugs manufacturers in the state had made a representation to the Union Health Ministry highlighting the fact that drug testing facilities in the country are not keeping pace with the progress being made by the pharmaceutical industry and growth of trade in many states. Since many of the drug testing labs was not up to the mark, there were incidents in which several testing reports from these labs were challenged.

"Only a few testing labs, including the one in Tamil Nadu, are somewhat well equipped and functioning with good infrastructure. In all other states, the Labs are not up to the mark in the case of instruments as well as infrastructure. Even if the people in the labs are doing some mistakes in the process of testing, the manufacturers are penalized," said a manufacturer based in Chennai.

Expressing happiness over the upgradation of the testing lab, an office-bearer of the Tamil Nadu drugs manufacturers' association said even in the Mashelkar Committee Report (para 12.1) it is said that the limitations in testing of drugs samples in the government labs are related to the absence or lack of sophisticated instruments, lack of trained analysts, lack of commitment, lack of reagents, non-validated methods, shortage of funds, inadequate number of staff and in many cases a combination of more than one of these constraints."