The country’s top drug committee Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) has shot down the proposal of marking cellulose-based vegetarian capsules with a green dot.
“The members (of the board) opined that unlike food, drugs are not taken for choice but are prescribed by the doctors to save lives and marking them as vegetarian or non-vegetarian origin is not desirable,” said the minutes of the DTAB meeting which was held around 4 months ago. Most of the capsules manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry are based on gelatin which is obtained by boiling the connective tissues, bones and skins of animals, usually cattle and pigs.
The proposal was put in front of DTAB after a representation was received by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which talked about introducing a provision under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, in order to make labelling of cellulose-based capsules with a green dot mandatory. The representation said that such a step will help consumer to be well informed about the origin of the capsule. It added that gelatin-based capsules should be allowed to be marketed without any additional labelling.
“Some members also pointed out that Hydroxypropyl Methycellulose – a type of cellulose capsules – is basically of syenthetic origin and as such can not be considered as purely of vegetarian origin as in the case of food preparations,” the minutes noted.
The DTAB decision is in line with the 2013 Supreme Court decision which stated that cosmetics and drugs cannot be treated at par with food articles when it comes to labelling them with a red or a green mark to distinguish the vegetarian and non-vegetarian ingredients.
Also, since the food habits in India vary from person to person and place to place, the Supreme Court ruled, it is not practicable and desirable to display identifications about the origin of the non-vegetarian ingredients in the packages of drugs and cosmetics.
Across the world, more than 90 per cent of the tablets manufactured are gelatin-based as it is time-tested and cost-effective. Cellulose tablets, on the other hand, have their own set of issues such as irregular dissolution and unstable behaviour in certain conditions.