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Pharma leaders, policy makers discuss COVID-19 impact, way forward for industry

Most are optimistic about the future but accentuate the need for investments in technology and other strategic measures to ensure progress

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A recent virtual event organised by CorpGini, on ‘The Future of Healthcare, Pharma and Allied Industries’ witnessed both private and public stakeholders of these sectors assess the current situation and discuss strategies for progress.

Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, said “During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has provided medicines such as hydroxychloroquine to various countries as India wants to help the world. India is the pharmacy of the world and will remain the pharmacy of the world.” He also said, “We should focus on brain gain and avoid brain drain.”

Speaking on the most talked about topic these days, a vaccine for COVID-19, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Executive Chairperson, Biocon, said, “Vaccine development is a very complex process; developing a vaccine in a year’s time is a very daunting task. We believe it will take a long time before you have a safe vaccine that can be given to the entire country. It is a complex process, which normally takes at least four years, we are being asked to do it in just one year. There are a large number of processes to ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Then there are regulatory requirements for three to four months before you can manufacture and then get into large scale production. Let’s not delude ourselves. We need to deal with this pandemic for two years before getting a vaccine.”

Accentuating the need to invest in healthcare, she stated, “We must look at the future of healthcare, we have been thrown in the deep end of the virtual world. We should embrace technology to become more efficient. The use of technology in drug discovery and development in India is comparatively recent. India is in a better condition due to the cost advantage we have in using digital technology and software. The drug discovery and development process need to innovate from a regulatory point of view. The drug discovery should have parallel processing instead of sequential processing to reduce the drug discovery time.”

“If you don’t have healthcare you can’t have an economy. We should embrace technologies to become more efficient. Technologies being developed to use data to see how serious the patient is. You can see the prognosis. Is there a good immunisation therapy that makes us more resistant to the virus? There is a need for a systematic, data-led approach that keeps people safe. Ayushman Bharat has done a great job with looking after the poor, but it has to look at cashless hospitals. We have an opportunity to deliver universal healthcare, wellness centres can also function as primary healthcare centres,” she said, citing examples of countries that had managed to curb the spread and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic like Thailand, Japan and Vietnam, where there is an emphasis on people and environment being clean, where they wear masks during any infection.

Sudarshan Jain, Secretary-General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) said, “COVID-19 is a great opportunity; any adversity has to be transformed into an opportunity. There is outstanding work that is being done in India”.

India controls 60 per cent of the vaccine market globally. The time-frame for vaccine development in India has been reduced from 10 years to one year, he added.

However, Dinesh Dua, Chairman, Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India, stated, “India is a great destination for doing bio-equivalence clinical trials. There is cost-effectiveness, precision and knowledge in India. I think the first COVID-19 vaccine will come from India. By September or December, we will have a solution to this pandemic.”

Thus, most experts and veterans were optimistic about the future but also underscored the need for significant investments and strategic measures to spur growth.

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