Some of us Homeschoolers from Mumbai got an opportunity to visit a Pharmaceutical Factory and see how Injections, Tablets, Capsules and other life saving drugs are manufactured.
In January 2013, after I [as a Medical Doctor] got an invite from Neon Pharma to see their Factory in Palghar, I mentioned that as I am part of Swashikshan the National body of homeschoolers in India, I would like to bring some Homeschooling kids along to see the factory. The Management agreed not only to us seeing their Factory, but also to make arrangements for our transport in an AC bus and also meals!
I put the invite up on our Homeschool groups in Facebook, Gmail and sms. Those of us who could make it [since it was a rather short notice of only 3 days this time] gathered at Borivli early morning and embarked on this incredible voyage of discovery.
The Chief Chemist explaining the intricacies of sealing Injection vials in the Factory
We were transported in Ac comfort from Borivali to Palghar and back. The journey took about three hours including a break for Buffet breakfast on the way.
Our AC bus transported us in royal comfort
On reaching the Factory each of us were welcomed with a Red rose and Chocolates. The Plant Manager himself gave us a brief talk, and members of his team gave us an introduction to the history of Neon Pharma and how this plant has grown to its present state.
In the Conference room of the Factory, Mr. Jaswant Tolat, Vice President of Neon Pharma introduced the various aspects of Injection and Tablet manufacture, and the need to have extremely stringent quality control during the entire manufacturing and sealing stages.
He showed us the difference between vials and ampoules and the importance of sterility in manufacturing these drugs.
A vial [containing antibiotic] on the left, and an ampoule of water for injection on the right.
After the brief introductions, we were led into the main factory.
Before entering the factory we had to don sterile Aprons, Caps and Shoe covers.
Two eager parents ready to make lifesaving medicines!
Children peering through the double glass into the sterile manufacturing areas.
Even after donning those, we could not enter the manufacturing areas, but have a look through the double sealed glass windows.
We visited different sections of the Factory, each time donning fresh Aprons, caps and shoe covers.
We saw how the clean rooms are designed with graded pressure air locks, so that the final inner most room is the most sterile and at the highest pressure.
Here are two of the youngest participants, budding scientists Nancy and Gabrielle!
Each part of the Factory manufactures a different type of medicine, as per WHO GMP standards.
In other sections we also had to wear face masks and full gowns.
We saw and learnt about
- Distilled water for Injections,
- Ampoule filling and sealing,
- Vial cleaning, filling, Nitrogen purging, sealing, labeling, packaging,
- Design of clean rooms
- Air locks
- Tablet manufacture
- Capsule manufacture
- Process of manufacturing Cytotoxic anti Cancer drugs
- Chemistry lab instruments like Burette, pipette, burners
The Factory demonstrated the practical role of Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Biology blending together in the real world to help save lives and safeguard our health.
This is what one of the boys wrote:
1.I learned how are injections made.
2.How are powder injections made.
3.I liked the way they explained.
4.I liked the way they explained about the water.
5.How it is boiled at what temperature.
6.The things that we wore,they looked very cute.
7.It would have been boring with few people. More people
8.The food was nice.
9.Thank you for all the care.
10.Thank you very very very very much.
This is what Nithya, another home-schooler wrote:
NEON is a company that sells medicine. NEON ships their medicine worldwide. They use many high tech machines to help them. It was founded in June 1982. The NEON laboratories that we visited located far from any big cities in Palghar, Maharashtra. It was an 89km ride from Thane to Palghar. It took us around two and a half hours to go to the labs. Palghar is a seaside city. It’s northwest of Thane.
When you go into the labs you must wear a coat, plastic shoes, and a net for your hair. This is because there should be no contamination from your clothes, shoes, or your hair. . After the plastic shoes and hair caps are used they are disposed. But they simply wash the coats. They do not want any organisms in the pills. When you go into the lab you must pass through an airlock so that no contaminations come in with you. There are air filters inside the labs so that you breath won’t contaminate the bottles of medicine.
They have a whole other lab for their water purifier. The water is taken then filtered. Then they reverse osmoses it. They keep the water moving so that no growth of a microbe will take place. The water is then used to clean their equipment and the coats. The water is also used for other things. Maybe they drink that water who knows.
The company makes a lot of medicine. But I thought what they did best was their injections. They also make cancer pills when they do this they must be very careful not to get it on the coworkers .They also make antibiotics. In that department they must be very careful to make sure that no germs get in the pills. They make powder injections and plain injections. They make a lot of other things but we only got to see a few department.
The powder for the powder injections are made by different dealers. When NEON receives the powder they examine it for contaminations. They have never found an organism in any vats. When it has been examined they give it a green sticker to show it has no organisms and is ready to be filled into bottles. Then a machine weighs enough powder for each bottle. The weighed amount is then inserted into bottles then packed by hand. When they are being packed they are examined. The water is examined then inserted into a glass bottle and fused shut by the same machine. The bottles then are transferred to a machine that examines the water in the bottle. This machine has nine cameras. If it finds something wrong the machine pushes it of the line. Then all the doctor has to do is break open the bottle and dissolve the powder in the sterilized water then inject.
All in all we had a good time. Thank you Mathew uncle for organizing everything.
This is what Grace my 13 year old homeschooler wrote:
The Pharmaceutical Factory and the homeschoolers
There were 16 of us, a huge bus, and some polite, generous Medical representatives. We were on our way to Neon Pharmaceuticals. When we got there we were seated around a long table and the manager told us about the company as they served us chocolates, biscuits and tea. The dos and don’ts were said and we went in.
Before we got in, we had to wear special disposable masks, plastic footwear, and overcoats. They could not risk contamination! We got to see and learn many interesting things about how injections are made, in what temperatures they are stored and how clean and perfect the work they are doing has to be. If there is any impurity or uncleanness the whole batch would have to be thrown out! Then there was a machine which had several cameras which took pictures of ampules and checked if there was a problem with any one of them. There were two types of injections, powder injectable and liquid injectable.
There was also an oncology building in which they made cancer treatment tablets. The man who was supervising the machine making the tablets had to wear a spacesuit type of outfit so that he does not inhale the dust from the tablets which are meant only for cancer patients.
All the workers working there were given check-ups every 6 months and trained in hygiene. Furthermore, all the ampules were thoroughly washed and sterilized before anything was put into it. It was a very nice and clean company and we were lucky to get to see it.
All in all a most educational trip. We learnt from the staff that other than the Directors children, no children have ever visited this Factory.
This was a great day for Swashikshan our National Body of Homeschooolers, and one more opportunity for Homeschoolers’ to learn from real life.