Noida Dialogue

An initiative of Democratic Outreach for Social Transformation, DOST

Pharmaceutical Industry in India- the Sunrise Sector

Indian pharmaceutical sector could be the next IT industry for our economy, both its ability to leverage our skilled manpower and to emerge as a global powerhouse. According to a report, in 2017 the pharmaceutical sector in India was valued at US$ 33 billion and in May 2018, the Indian pharmaceutical market grew at 10.8 per cent year-on-year. The country’s pharmaceutical industry is expected to expand at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 22.4 per cent over 2015–20 to reach US$ 55 billion and is likely to be among the top three pharmaceutical markets by incremental growth and 6th largest market globally in absolute size. India contributes the second largest share of pharmaceutical and biotech workforce in the world.
The row over faulty hip-resurfacing system provided in India by Johnson & Johnson shows shortcomings in the legal and institutional mechanism to deal with quality issues in pharmaceutical industry. This episode has made it abundantly clear that global pharmaceutical companies would continue to treat Indians as second rate patient-customer. The conduct of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) in the whole affair also leaves much to be desired. India should use this experience to plug gaps in the legal and institutional framework applicable to the pharmaceutical industry and ramp up the working of the CDCSO. All these will bode well for the domestic pharmaceutical industry and place it on a firmer footing.
Generic drugs form the largest segment of the Indian pharmaceutical sector. A generic drug is a medication created to be the same as an already marketed brand-name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics, and intended use. Generic drugs tend to cost less than their brand-name counterparts because generic drug applicants do not have to repeat animal and clinical (human) studies that are required of the brand-name medicines to demonstrate safety and effectiveness. The market for the generic drug has been accelerated by increasing number of patent expiration of branded drugs and government initiatives in all the countries. Increasing prevalence of chronic diseases and ever-rising cost of hospitalization and medicines are responsible for the growth of generic drugs market.
India is the largest provider of generic medicines globally in terms of volume. Indian pharmaceutical sector industry supplies over 50 per cent of global demand for various vaccines, 40 per cent of generic demand in the US and 25 per cent of all medicine in UK. Presently over 80 per cent of the antiretroviral drugs used globally to combat AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) are supplied by Indian pharmaceutical firms. Around 40.6 per cent of India’s US$ 16.8 billion pharmaceutical exports in 2016-17 were to the American continent, followed by a 19.7 per cent to Europe, 19.1 per cent to Africa and 18.8 per cent to Asian countries.
Apart from the global demand for Indian pharmaceutical products increase in the size of middle class households coupled with the improvement in medical infrastructure and increase in the penetration of health insurance in the country will also influence in the growth of pharmaceuticals sector. In this context National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), also known as ‘Aayushman Bharat’ which seeks to provide insurance cover to 10 crore families for an amount of Rs. 5,00,000 is expected to be a watermark for the Indian pharmaceutical industry. A vastly improved access to medical facilities under this scheme to the hitherto excluded population is expected to provide a significant boost to the domestic health service and pharmaceutical industry.
A serious threat to the Indian pharmaceutical industry comes from its global counterparts. The big international pharmaceutical companies and their governments have been trying to lobby with the Indian government to make patent protection more stringent despite the fact that both compulsory licensing and prohibition of ever greening, provided under the Indian Patents Act, 1970, are valid under the TRIPS agreement of the WTO. It should not surprise us that India regularly figures on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for providing ‘weak’ intellectual property protection. The annual ranking by ‘Global Innovation Policy Centre’ of the US Chamber of Commerce also ranks India poorly for its IPR climate. Any change in Indian IPR law made under foreign pressure will prove to be detrimental to the interest of the domestic companies.Another threat emerges from manufacturing practices of some of the domestic pharmaceutical companies. As of 2016 there were around 10,000 generic manufacturers in India, of which only 1,400 were WHO GMP (Good Manufacturing Process) –compliant and only 523 of them were US FDA-approved. Now that the Indian companies have captured a significant part of the global generic drug market, it faces a very intense international scrutiny regarding its systems and processes. Any instance of poor manufacturing by one company is likely to attract global attention and affect the brand equity of Indian pharmaceutical industry as a whole. It is time that CDSCO sets higher benchmarks for quality standards for the drug and pharmaceutical industry.
Regulatory complexity is another obstacle faced by the Indian pharmaceutical industry. One of the most commonly cited reason for the growth of Indian Information Technology industry is the lack of governmental interference. While such a scenario is not possible for the pharmaceutical industry considering it literally deals with matters of life and death, the regulatory burden can certainly be reduced. Currently, five ministries of the Government of India are involved in regulating drug and pharmaceutical industry. ‘Price control’ under which the Government fixes the maximum price that can be charged for a medicine also needs to strike a fine balance between the health interests of the consumers and the financial health of Indian pharmaceutical companies.
The bulk import of cheaper Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) from China has led to an evisceration of the Indian manufacturing capacity in the sector. In order to ensure the long term health and independence of the Indian pharmaceutical industry, it is required that instances of dumping of API from China are quickly identified and remedial measures taken. It is equally important that issues that hobble Indian manufacturing are removed.

Gopal Krishna Agarwal
National Spokesperson of BJP on Economic Affairs
Member Board of Governors Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA)

Source : Blogspot