Changing recipe for growth in the new paradigm of Indian Pharmaceutical Industry… for its effective implementation there appears to be more questions than answers:

India, the world’s largest democracy with its economy on a sustained growth track is creating an overall environment for high performance for all key sectors, including pharmaceuticals. In terms of GDP growth India is second only to China and is expected to become the fifth largest economy by 2017.
Dawn of a New Era:
Over a period of time, India has emerged as a fast growing pharmaceutical industry through various policy measures taken by the government of India (GoI). Such policy measures have been very supportive to the domestic companies. The absence of product patents from 1970 to 2005 enabled the Indian pharmaceutical companies to become world’s leading producers of ‘copycat’ versions of patented drugs. Lower cost base and expertise in ‘reverse engineering’ immensely helped the domestic industry to sustain its competitive edge during this period.

New product patent regime in 2005 heralded the dawn of a new era triggering a transformation of the industry. Return of large global companies like, MSD, Roche, Eli Lilly and entry of other company’s like Biogen, Genzyme, Allergan, Astellas, Eisai etc together with the emergence of many Indian companies to become research-based multinationals, are making this transformation more interesting.

Generic pharmaceuticals will continue to play a significant role:

Even with all these changes, generic pharmaceutical products will continue to play a significant role towards the growth of the industry. While being major global generic players, some large Indian companies like Dr. Reddy’s laboratories (DRL), Glenmark, Ranbaxy, Piramal Healthcare etc have commenced their journey on the long road of product discovery research with reasonable amount of initial success. There are now several new drug development programs by many of these Indian pharmaceutical companies, which will hopefully result in global product launches in not too distant future. India’s emphasis on research and development and new drug discovery is indeed growing since the country signed WTO agreement for product patent in 1995.

An industry with high success quotient:

Currently India is the world’s fourth largest producer of pharmaceuticals by volume and directly employs about 5 lakh people. The market is crowded with 20,000 pharmaceutical firms, 60,000 distributors and 700,000-800,000 retailers. Although there are around 5,600 licensed generics players, in reality around 3,000 of them are engaged in pharmaceutical production. The domestic pharmaceutical companies now cater to about 70% of the country’s requirements for medicines. The top 10 companies control about 30% and 250 companies control around 70% of the market.

Key determinants of success:

Following in my view are the key determinants, which will decide the extent of success of the Indian pharmaceutical industry as a whole:

• Healthcare delivery and infrastructure

• Access and affordability of modern medicines

• IPR environment

• Domestic R&D success

• Speed of regulatory reform process

• Disease trends and prescription patterns

• Public and private healthcare spending

• Penetration of health insurance

Domestic companies adopting different business model:

In this changing scenario different domestic companies are adopting different business models, as follows:

1. Penetration to the regulated generics markets:

- With partnership agreements with established generic companies

- Setting up own sales and marketing organisations both greenfield and also through acquisitions

- With acquisition of manufacturing facilities

2. Contract Research and Manufacturing Services (CRAMS):

Ballooning costs for research and development and low productivity have prompted the research-based global pharmaceutical companies to outsource part of their research and manufacturing activities to lower-cost, developing nations like, India and China.

India is gradually emerging as a competitive hub for CRAMS. The country is playing a significant role in manufacturing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and intermediates for the global pharmaceutical industry. We have also seen the global pharmaceutical companies signing-up long-term outsourcing contracts with the Indian manufacturing and contract research organizations.

Generic pharmaceuticals produced in India are increasingly being accepted all over the world, excepting some recent US-FDA related issues. Many Indian companies like Piramal Healthcare, Aurobindo, DRL etc are taking up global generic manufacturing contracts for the global players like, Allergan, Pfizer and GSK, in addition to marketing generic pharmaceuticals themselves. Outsourcing of such business processes to India has undoubtedly been proved to be not only effective in saving costs, but also in saving valuable developmental time for the Multinational companies (MNCs).

Besides all these, India is emerging as the preferred destination for outsourcing clinical trials because of its both high quality and lower cost facilities of global standards.

3. Operating in domestic generic market

4. Investing more in R&D for discovery of NCE/NME

Key growth drivers:

A recent study jointly undertaken by the Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) and Yes Bank identified following key growth drivers for the domestic pharmaceutical Industry:

• Consolidation leading to better pricing

• Population growth, changing demographics and urbanization

• Increasing per capita income leading to higher penetration

• Access to quality healthcare through health insurance schemes

• Robust product patent regime, although generics will continue to grow

The questions to ponder:

1. Whether domestic Indian pharmaceutical companies will make large-scale investments in R&D to compete effectively with the global companies across the world?

2. Whether global pharmaceutical companies will be successful in marketing drugs patented in India?

3. Whether the government, physicians and patients keep supporting the generics?

4. How will the new Drug Policy be?

5. How will the government go about improving access to modern medicines from the current level of 35% to 100% of the Indian population?


It is not quite easy to gauge the rate of progress of the Indian pharmaceutical industry in the new paradigm, at this stage. One of the key growth drivers of the domestic pharmaceutical industry has been the launch of a slew of new products of various types. The pipe line of such products has already started drying up in a comparative yardstick, in post product patent regime. Consequently, as already launched such new products reach the maturity stage from the growth phase of their ‘product life cycle’, a possible slowdown in the rate of growth of the respective companies in the domestic market is well anticipated.

There are other growth drivers though, for the industry, but how will these drivers actually drive the industry growth will, to a large extent, depend on proper answers to the above five questions. Thus, in the new paradigm though the growth recipe is ready, in its effective implementation there are more questions than answers.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

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