‘India Taskforce’ takes the first step in an arduous task to bridge the trust deficit.

To prepare a comprehensive long term strategy to unleash the growth potential of the Pharmaceutical Industry of India considering all its current issues, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced constitution of a taskforce on March 15, 2011 involving all the stakeholders, as mentioned below. As per reports, the first meeting of the committee was held on June 6, 2011 to deliberate on the mandated goals.

Within 3 months the taskforce, under the chairmanship of V.M. Katoch, Secretary, Department of Health Research and Director-General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is expected to work out and submit a short, medium and long term strategic path and goals to the Government, highlighting the key and specific policy measures required to achieve these objectives.

The taskforce will have members drawn from:

  1. National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority,
  2. Department of Industry Policy and Promotion,
  3. Indian Drug Manufacturers Association, Mumbai,
  4. Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, Mumbai,
  5. Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, Mumbai,
  6. Federation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs, Gurgaon,
  7. Confederation of Indian Pharmaceutical Industry,
  8. Bulk Drug Manufacturers’ Association, Hyderabad,
  9. SME Pharma Industry Confederation, New Delhi
  10. Drug Controller General of India as the Member Secretary.

The focus areas:

The report has been mandated to cover the following critical areas:

  1. Evolving a short, medium and long-term policy and strategy to make India a hub for drug discovery, research and development.
  2. Evolving strategies to further the interests of Indian pharma industry in the light of issues related to intellectual property rights and recommend strategies to capitalize the opportunity of $60 to $80 billion drugs going off-patent over the next five years.
  3. Evolve policy measures to assure national drugs security by promoting indigenous production of bulk drugs, preventing takeover of Indian pharma industry by multi-national corporations, drug pricing, promotion of generic drugs
  4. Recommend measures to assure adequate availability of quality generic drugs at affordable prices.
  5. Recommend measures to tackle the problem of spurious drugs and use of anti-counterfeit technologies.

Estimates and Perspectives:

  • The pharma industry is growing at around 1.5-1.6 times the Gross Domestic Product growth of India
  • Currently, India ranks third in the world of volume of manufacturing pharmaceutical products
  • The Indian pharmaceutical industry is expected to grow at a rate of around 15 % till 2015
  • The retail pharmaceutical market in India is expected to cross US$ 20 billion by 2015
  • According to a study by FICCI-Ernst & Young India will open a probable US$ 8 billion market for MNCs selling patented drugs in India by 2015
  • The number of pharmaceutical retailers is estimated to grow from 5,50,000,  to 7,50,000 by 2015
  • At least 2,00,000 more pharma graduates would be required by the Indian pharmaceutical industry by 2015
  • The Indian drug and pharmaceuticals sector attracted Foreign Direct Investments to the tune of US$ 1.43 billion from April 2000 to December 2008 (Ministry of Commerce and Industry), which is expected to increase significantly along with the policy reform measures and increased Government investment (3%-4%) as a percentage of GDP towards healthcare, by 2015
  • The Minister of Commerce estimates that US$ 6.31 billion will be invested in the domestic pharmaceutical sector
  • Due to low cost of R&D, the Indian pharmaceutical off-shoring industry is expected to be a US$ 2.5 billion opportunity by 2012

Key growth drivers: Local and Global:

Local: • Rapidly growing middle class population of the country with increasing disposable income. • High quality and cost effective domestic generic drug manufacturers are achieving increasing penetration in local, developed and emerging markets. • Rising per capita income of the population and inefficiency of the public healthcare system will encourage private healthcare systems of various types and scales to flourish. • High probability of emergence of a robust healthcare financing/insurance model for all strata of society. • Fast growing Medical Tourism. • Evolving combo-business model of global pharmaceutical companies with both patented and generic drugs is boosting local outsourcing and collaboration opportunities. Global: Global pharmaceutical industry is going through a rapid process of transformation. The moot question to answer now is how the drug discovery process can meet the unmet needs of the patients and yet remain cost effective.

Cost containment pressure due to various factors is further accelerating this process. CRAMS business, an important outcome of this transformation process, will be the key growth driver for many Indian domestic pharmaceutical players in times to come. Bridging the ‘Trust Deficit’ is one of the key Challenges:

Like all other industries, Pharmaceutical Industry in India has its own sets of challenges and opportunities under which it operates. Some of the challenges the industry faces are:

  • Unfortunate “Trust Deficit” between the Government and the Industry to improve access to affordable modern medicines.
  • Regulatory red tape and lack of initiative towards international harmonization.
  • Inadequate infrastructure and abysmal public delivery system.
  • Lack of adequate number of qualified healthcare professionals.
  • Inadequate innovation friendly ecosystem to encourage R&D and other non-product related innovation in the pharmaceutical value chain.
  • Myopic Drug Policies have failed to deliver.
  • Addressing needs of over 350 million BPL families who cannot afford to buy any healthcare products and services.
  • ‘80% out of pocket expenditure’ of the common man towards healthcare.
  • Inadequate Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives in most of the critical areas of healthcare.

Urgent need to bridge the ‘Trust Deficit’ and improve public perception of the Industry:

Like many other countries of the world, in India too there is a negative public perception about the pharmaceutical industry. Recent reports on ‘clinical trials related patient’s compensation’ or the government intervention on allegedly gross ‘unethical’ marketing practices by the pharmaceutical companies, further strengthen such belief.  Unfortunately, despite meteoric success of the generic pharmaceutical industry of India in the global arena, public perception of the industry still remains as one, which is being driven by profiteering motive at the cost of the precious lives of ailing common population of the country. This is indeed acting as a strong retarding force. As a result the regulators are also compelled to introduce more of growth stifling measures at a fairly regular pace.

A new ‘Harris Poll’ conducted in the US between November 8 and 15, 2010 reports as follows:

Top industries that largest numbers of people believe should be more regulated

Industry % of respondents
Oil

47

Pharmaceuticals

46

Health Insurance

42

Tobacco

38

Banks

34

Managed Care

34

That an overwhelming 46% respondent in the US feels that the Pharmaceutical Industry should be regulated, only reflects a poor public perception of the industry in the USA.

Industries trusted by the fewest people

Industry % of respondents
Tobacco

2

Oil

4

Telecommunication

7

Managed Care

7

Life Insurance Companies

10

Pharmaceuticals

11

(Source: Harris Poll 2010) 

It is indeed an irony that a miniscule 11% respondents trust pharmaceutical industry in the USA.

Thus in the prevailing scenario globally, the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry should take more demonstrable self-regulatory measures to improve its public perception and make its growth more inclusive, in the best possible way that it can. Without active support of the government, media and other stakeholders, through conscious efforts to improve its image, all the efforts of the taskforce may ultimately get converted into a zero sum game.

Job Creation by the industry is of critical importance: Pharmaceutical sector in India has created employment for approximately 3 million people from 23,000 plus units. Accelerated growth in job creation, will not only open up more opportunities to pharmaceutical professionals, but will also fuel growth opportunities in allied business segments like Laboratory, Scientific instruments, Medical Devices and Pharma machinery manufacturing sectors.

Despite all these, it is worth noting that a major challenge still remains in getting employable workforce with the required skill sets. This issue will grow by manifold, as we move on, if adequate vocational training institutes are not put in place on time to generate employable workforce for the industry.

Government Initiatives, thus far, are still less than adequate: The government of India has started working out some policy and fiscal initiatives, though grossly inadequate, for the growth of the pharmaceutical business in India. Some of the measures adopted by the Government are follows:

  • Pharmaceutical units are eligible for weighted tax reduction at 175% for the research and development expenditure obtained.
  • Two new schemes namely, New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative and the Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Research Program have been launched by the Government.
  • The Government is contemplating the creation of SRV or special purpose vehicles with an insurance cover to be used for funding new drug research
  • The Department of Pharmaceuticals is mulling the creation of drug research facilities which can be used by private companies for research work on rent

Pharmaceutical Export going North: In recent years, despite economic slowdown in the global economy, pharmaceutical exports in India have registered a commendable growth. Export has emerged as an important growth driver for the domestic pharmaceutical industry with over 50 % of their total revenue coming from the overseas markets. For the financial year 2008-09 the export of drugs is estimated to be around US $8.25 billion as per the Pharmaceutical Export Council of India (Pharmexil). A survey undertaken by FICCI reported 16% growth in India’s pharmaceutical export during 2009-2010.

This trend needs to be encouraged and be given further boost.

Conclusion:

The newly formed taskforce will hopefully be able to address all these issues in an integrated way to guide this life-line industry to a much higher growth trajectory  to compete effectively not only in the global generic space, but also with the global innovator companies, sooner than later.

So the ball game for the taskforce is to recommend strategy and policy measures to improve access to modern medicines by reducing ‘out of pocket’ expenses significantly through public/private health insurance initiatives, protect public health interest and foster a climate for innovation, simultaneously, and certainly not one at the cost of the other.

By: Tapan J 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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