Despite many arguments in favour of prescribing generic drugs for the patients, the Indian medical sector still lacks in doing so, while the culture is well established in the western countries, where the medical sector is considered much stronger and well developed.
The pharmaceuticals industry in India has witnessed significant growth in recent years and the country enjoys an important position on the global map. India is currently the largest producer of generic drugs and supplying more than 50% of global demand for various vaccines, 40% of generic drug demand in the US and 25% of all medicines in the UK. Globally, India ranks third in terms of pharmaceuticals volume production and 14th in terms of value.
The Indian domestic pharmaceutical industry includes around 3,000 drug companies and there are around 10,500 manufacturing units. The Indian pharmaceutical companies currently contribute more than 80% of the antiretroviral drugs globally to combat AIDS. The country’s drugs and pharmaceuticals exports in FY21 (until February 2021) were $22.15 billion.
According to the Indian Economic Survey 2021, the domestic pharmaceuticals market is projected to grow more than 3x by 2030 to around $120-130 billion from $41 billion in 2021. By 2024, the Indian domestic pharmaceuticals market is expected to reach $65 billion by 2024. The Indian biotechnology industry that combines sectors such as biopharmaceuticals, bio-services, bio-agriculture, bio-industry, and bioinformatics; was valued at $64 billion in 2019 and likely to grow to $150 billion by 2025.
The Indian drugs and pharmaceuticals industry is also the segment that attracts a large chunk of the total FDI of the country. The Indian government has approved the amendment of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy in the pharmaceutical sector in a bid to allow FDI up to 100% under the automatic route for manufacturing medical devices. According to the data released by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), the domestic drugs and pharmaceuticals sector attracted a cumulative FDI inflow of $17.75 billion between April-December 2020.
Overall, the drugs and pharmaceuticals industry has been playing a key role in the growth of the Indian economy. To learn what’s happening in the industry and how the sector is shaping up, Autofintechs spoke to Nandita Das, Supply Chain Manager Community Development Medicinal Unit (CDMU), Kolkata.
Edited excerpts below.
Q. Concept of prescribing the generic drugs is a well-established practice in the West; with 89% of total prescriptions dispensed in the US in 2020 were generic drugs. Why the situation is completely different in India?
The situation is different in India because of the regulatory system. The government asks the prescribers to prescribe in generic names, but most of the medicines are not available as TRUE generic drugs. To change the situation, the government should compel the pharmaceutical industry to market the products only as generics.
Q. As per a WHO report, half of the world population is deprived of standard health coverage and a majority of this is in India. A major reason behind this is the often high price of medicines. As an industry stakeholder, how do you see this violating healthcare, a fundamental right for every citizen?
Health is not a fundamental right in India. A high-level expert group on Universal Health Coverage in 2011 recommended a free supply of essential medicines (as enlisted in the National Essential List of Medicines) to all citizens. The government should follow this recommendation.
Q. The Covid-19 crisis has bared weaknesses of the Indian healthcare system. Pharmacy companies being a part of the ecosystem, how they are trying to equip themselves and step up the game?
I feel many pharmaceutical companies are utilising the pandemic for their profiteering. It appears so with their promotion of unproven antivirals, pricing of Covid vaccines, etc.
Q. Personalised medicine for an individual patient is a unique model often exercised in western countries. What is the status of this system in India? What are the challenges in adopting this system in India?
Before exercising personalised medicine for an individual patient, Drug Formulary and Standard Treatment Guideline concept should be implemented in India.
Q. How the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the domestic pharmacy industry? What is the road the industry is chartering to mitigate the impacts in future?
CDMU is an NGO trying to champion the causes for Rational Drug Therapy and Universal Access to Essential Medicines. Being a staff member of CDMU it is not possible for me to comment on the path the industry is chartering.