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Making India Pharma Inc self sufficient

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Governments across the world are strategising to ensure accessibility and affordability of drugs with increasing healthcare spends and steps to bring down the cost of medicines without compromising on quality. And, India with its dominance in the generic drugs space, has emerged as a significant partner in achieving these goals. On the domestic front too, the government is encouraging the industry to further its growth as it contributes significantly in the country’s total GDP. According to Pharmexcil, India exported pharma products worth of $200.02 million in financial year 2018, with a recorded growth of 37.52 per cent.

However, the irony of the story is that though India surpasses China when it comes to pharma exports, it is largely dependent on China for its raw materials and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). According to Department of Pharmaceuticals, India imports over 60 per cent of APIs from other nations. For some specific APIs, the dependence is more than 80-90 per cent. For example, APIs needed to manufacture Vitamin C, antibiotics-Metronidazole, Ofloxacin, Livofloxacin- all come from China. The dependence is much higher in intermediates than in APIs, and alarmingly there is an increase in this dependence. If we do not take exigent measures to deal with our dependence on certain countries only for a large number of APIs and drug intermediates, it could have an adverse effect on the sector’s progress.

Fortunately, the government has taken note of this fact and has been working towards remedying the situation. In 2015, Dr VK Subburaj, the Secretary of Department of Pharmaceuticals at that time, had highlighted the urgent need to bring about self-sufficiency in the field of APIs. And in 2018, the Chemicals and Fertilizers Ministry, along with other ministries, joined hands to draw up a road map for increasing APIs production in the country and reduce India’s dependency on China for APIs.

Putting these measures in place and ensuring this smooth implementation will be vital to the success of policy reforms and programmes for the pharma industry. Especially, as the government eyes greater growth and glory through this sector. For instance, Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India, had urged the pharma industry to work towards making India an international capital of generic medicines, at the 70th Indian Pharmaceutical Congress, where top pharma CEOs met, in Delhi late last year.

The Prasanta Kumar Ghosh report titled Government’s Policies and Growth of Pharmaceutical Industry in India 1947-2018, also says that just 25 companies in India could capture 85 per cent of the market. However, to leverage the true potential of the industry and gear up for fast approaching opportunities such as drugs going off patent, upcoming semi-regulated new markets, focus on special populations, aging populations, pharma companies need to be more self-sufficient and increase their R&D spends.

The report also suggests that the existing policies require to be more ‘friendly’ to enable development of a stronger local industry for manufacturing APIs that form the core of the industrial strength for India in the global context. It recommends that an exercise can be attempted by the government to select and produce APIs locally by encouraging procurement of key input materials and energies at more ‘competitive’ prices within the provisions of the WTO from within the country itself.
Incidentally, many of the top pharma companies in India have already set up API manufacturing facilities in Vishakhapatnam due to easy accessibility to sea routes and airports. Therefore, Express Pharma, in its Vizag Pharma Special, focussed on how to transform this port city into a centre of excellence for the pharma sector thereby furthering its efforts to become more self-sufficient.Industry experts and veterans also share their views on minimising API dependency from China, with Usha Sharma

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China manufactures most of the bulk drugs pharma industry requires-Ravi Uday Bhaskar

Measures must focus on domestic players -Madan Mohan Reddy

Indian cos need to explore on putting up facilities in dedicated pockets-Suresh Kamath

How pharma companies can minimise API dependency from China?-Anant Barbadikar

Changing the mindset for education can definitely be a game changer-KV V Raju

There is a need to focus on skill development-Dr Sanjit Singh Lamba

The government should consider it as national emergency-Dr B Krishna Murthy

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