Express Pharma

Coping and thriving through COVID-19

As 2021 is about to end, a few stakeholders from the pharma industry share some key lessons learnt in the past year

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Learning, flexibility, adaptability, collaboration and innovation are essential
to success

Nikkhil K-Masurkar, Executive Director, ENTOD Pharmaceutical

The pharma industry, along with the healthcare sector in India has been significantly impacted by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Though the pandemic posed numerous challenges for the industry, it also helped the pharma sector to revaluate its role and come out as a reliable provider of affordable, high-quality medicines. Rising to the occasion, the sector made immense efforts to make sure there is easy availability of medicines and vaccines during the pandemic. We have also witnessed the industry come together, with collaborations being built between companies from the outbreak of the pandemic, and the pharma industry has been lauded for the efforts that it has taken to mobilise quickly to try to contain and treat the coronavirus. During the same period, the government took steps in the right direction by introducing the Production linked incentive (PLI) scheme, a phase-wise policy to achieve self-reliance in API production. With so many new developments taking place and challenges to meet up to, the pharma industry has been fortunate enough to learn some critical lessons which will be crucial to spurring growth in volatile and complex business environments.

The key lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic are:

Resilience in the supply chain: The pharma industry needs to be self-reliant in the API landscape to make sure there is a continuous supply of medicine that holds immense significance for healthcare security. Some pharma companies have already begun the process of complexifying their supply chains by recruiting two or three alternate suppliers, while others are beginning to integrate their supply chain much more closely with their suppliers and customers.
Collaboration remains crucial: There has been a rapid increase in collaborations and alliances all over the world. In an attempt to find treatment drugs and vaccines, governments across different countries have collaborated with global public health and research institutions along with large businesses to speed up the discovery of solutions. Apart from that, there has been an increase in the speed of granting approvals and cutting of inefficiencies in order to facilitate the processes. It is expected that the world will build on this spirit of using each other’s strengths and working towards a greater good.
Innovation will lead the way: The pharma industry responded quickly by evaluating the possible utilisation of available drugs and exploring more innovative approaches. Given the lack of visibility into the future, many pharma companies were unable to plan for the long term. This led to companies adopting more agile strategies as well as being prepared for different scenarios. Decision making had to be decentralised. Short-term innovations and solutions were encouraged.
Skills can expire: Learning, flexibility, adaptability, collaboration and innovation are essential to success. Learning and widespread adoption of digital happened in the form of WFH, digital conferences, virtual AGMs, teleconsultation and so on. Telemedicine, online teaching, e-commerce, etc. have emerged in a big way. It is unlikely that these trends will be reversed. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a changing world, it is imperative that India revaluates its present role in the global pharma industry, explore new possibilities to strengthen and consolidate its position in light of economic and geopolitical shifts, and attain self-sufficiency as a globally competitive pharma industry with innovation as a guiding principle for future growth.

To achieve a strong R&D ecosystem, it is imperative to enhance both private and public expenditure on R&D