Year : 2010 | Volume
: 1 | Issue : 1 | Page : 38-
Obituary - Dr M Venkateswarlu
Founding President, ISCR, India
Founding President, ISCR
|How to cite this article:|
Mukherjee S. Obituary - Dr M Venkateswarlu.Perspect Clin Res 2010;1:38-38
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Mukherjee S. Obituary - Dr M Venkateswarlu. Perspect Clin Res [serial online] 2010 [cited 2023 Feb 2 ];1:38-38
Available from: http://www.picronline.org/text.asp?2010/1/1/38/71847
Dr M Venkateswarlu , PhD (1948-2009) – he was part of the new school of Indian bureaucracy – progressive, democratic, and impatient for change.
"I need an urgent appointment with you, Sir" I said on the phone. It was my third month at Ranbaxy as Head of Medical Affairs and Clinical Research. My Regulatory colleagues had run up a significant backlog of applications pending with the office of the DCG(I) and wanted my help in resolving the issues. Dr Venkateswarlu hesitated. "Can you come at 8.00 tomorrow?" he asked. Most government offices don't open until later in the day, so I was a bit surprised. "wouldn't it be too early for you, Sir?" I asked. "I mean 8.00 pm" he said, "that's the only time I have available on my calendar for the next 2 weeks. And don't worry; it's not late for me. I'm usually in office till much after 9.00 pm."
Dr Venkateswarlu was an amazing man. From the day he was asked to take charge of CDSCO he knew he would have a short tenure - he was not far from retirement at the time of his appointment to the post. Yet he was determined to accomplish more than his fair share during the time available to him. And he did. He set a benchmark of sorts for his successors when he published, on the CDSCO website, the standard timelines for approval of clinical trial applications. The regulatory office became more transparent than ever before, with clearer guidelines published on the web, transparent and participative reviews of applications, and expedited disposal of pending files. There were a host of other initiatives pertaining to drug regulation but unrelated to clinical research. He put in place metrics to measure the performance of his office, initiated an ambitious round of reform in drug development regulations, and sketched out the blueprint for an integrated Central Drugs Authority of the future.
He had strong convictions with regard to fixed dose combinations. And he knew I did not see eye to eye with him on the matter. Yet he wanted me to present the industry point of view in an open consultation session on the topic mid-way through his tenure. He believed in the consultatory process and wanted all points of view transparently discussed. In many ways, he was part of the new school of Indian bureaucracy - progressive, democratic, and impatient for change.
The Indian Society for Clinical Research has a burden of debt to Dr M Venkateswarlu. In late 2006, as the founding president of the fledgling body I invited him to our first annual general meeting, a very modest affair at a modest hotel in Mumbai. I did not expect him to be able to accept the invitation - he had recently been appointed Drugs Controller and I knew the busy schedule he was trying to cope with. But he accepted, arrived on time, spoke spiritedly on his vision for clinical research in India, and continued his association with ISCR through his tenure as DCGI. In three meetings held under the auspices of ISCR he discussed and accepted the Society's suggestions on progressive amendments to Schedule Y of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. He was skeptical about the Drugs Technical Advisory Board approving the path-breaking amendments, but stuck to his promise of putting the document up to the DTAB for review. To my utter delight he called me one evening to tell me that the Board had unanimously approved all 11 proposals. It is a different matter that a parliamentary committee held back the amendments, and nobody in the establishment has had the gumption to pursue the scientific merit of the suggestions ever since.
After brief extensions and tantalizing uncertainties Dr Venkateswarlu retired and went back to Mumbai in mid-2008. I had known him as a pragmatic, sensible, and sensitive officer of the federal bureaucracy in Mumbai from the mid-1990s. It was a coincidence that both he and I moved to Delhi at about the same time. After his return to Mumbai I had little opportunity to meet him, stationed in Gurgaon as I was. I wanted to know how he was faring in retirement, and resolved to pay him a visit at his residence during one of my notso-frequent trips to Mumbai, but never quite managed to do so. I knew he was still very active in professional circles and I expected to meet him sooner or later at one conference or the other, perhaps at DIA or at IPC. Unfortunately for me, it was never to be. Suffering a severe cardiac event, Dr Venkateswarlu passed away on June 28, 2009. As far as I know, only Pharmabiz carried the news of his demise. Dr Venkateswarlu rose from the ranks of the pharmaceutical regulatory establishment and left a more significant impact on our drug regulatory practice than the duration of his tenure at the helm would have allowed. He left us quietly, without much ado, as is often the case with those rare unsung heroes of Indian bureaucracy who strive, against all odds, to change the system from within.