‘Maira Committee’ delivers: Resolves 100% FDI issue in the pharma sector of India

On October 10, 2011, Dr Man Mohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India accepted the recommendation of the ‘Maira Committee’ on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Pharmaceutical Sector of India and decided that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) will continue to scrutinize all Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) in this area to avoid any possible adverse impact on Public Health Interest arising out of such deals.

Finance Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Health Minister Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Commerce and Industry Minister Mr. Anand Sharma, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia and the head of the ‘Maira Committee’ Mr. Arun Maira were reported to be present in the meeting.

Finer details are still not known:

Although the details of the ‘Maira Committee Report’ nor the discussion with the Prime Minister are not known, as yet, the key recommendation, as reported by the press was to be in relaxation of the threshold limits of CCI scrutiny for pharmaceutical M&As, which under the current law involve target companies with a turnover of above Rs 750 Crore (Rs 7.5 billion) and assets worth more than Rs 250 Crore (Rs 2.5 billion).

The CCI will now be strengthened and directed to set up a standing advisory committee especially to look into M&A in the pharmaceutical sector of India to  address the concerns of the stakeholders in this matter.

The new system in CCI within six months:

The new system will be put in place within a period of six months. By the time CCI equips itself to handle the recommendations of the ‘Maira Committee’, as an interim measure, all brownfield pharma M&A proposals will be routed through Foreign Direct Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for a period not exceeding six months.

A press note from the commerce & industry ministry announced at the same time that “India will continue to allow FDI without any limits (100 per cent) under the automatic route for Greenfield investments in the pharma sector. This will facilitate the addition of manufacturing capacities, technology acquisition and development.”

Looking back:

While looking back, the consolidation process within the Pharmaceutical Industry in India started gaining momentum since 2006 with the acquisition of Matrix Lab by Mylan. 2008 witnessed one of the biggest mergers in the Industry till that period, when Daiichi Sankyo of Japan acquired Ranbaxy of India for USD 4.6 billion.

Key apprehensions and counter arguments ‘for and against’ FDI cap:

Last year, Abbott’s acquisition of Piramal Healthcare with USD 3.72 billion followed several media reports on the Government’s keen interest in instituting new restrictions on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the pharmaceutical sector for the following apprehensions:

The first apprehension of some stakeholders was that such FDI will create ‘Oligopolistic Market’ with adverse impact on ‘Public Health Interest’. It was argued by others that Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM) has over 23,000 players and around 60,000 brands. Consolidated Abbott, being the largest domestic player, enjoys a market share of just 6.1% in a highly fragmented market. Thus, the apprehension that an ‘Oligopolistic Market’ will be created through acquisitions by the MNCs is unfounded.

The second apprehension was on limiting the power of government to grant Compulsory License (CL). With a CL, the Government, under the Indian Patents Act can authorize any pharmaceutical company to manufacture any medicine required by the country in an emergency situation for ‘Public Health Interest’. On this point the argument put forth was that with more than 20,000 registered pharmaceutical manufacturing companies operating in India, many of them with high skill sets, there will always be skilled manufacturers willing and be able to make needed medicines in an emergency situation, as happened during H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Creation of a legal barrier by putting a cap on FDI to prevent domestic pharma players from voluntarily selling their respective companies at a lucrative price, just from the CL point of view, others argued, sounds highly protectionist in the globalized economy.

The third apprehension was that lesser competition will push up drug prices. The counter-argument was that equity holding of a company has no bearing on prices or access, especially when prices are governed by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) and competition pressure. Thus, prices of medicines of Ranbaxy, Shantha Biotechnics and Abbott have reportedly remained stable even after their acquisition.

India needs FDI in the Pharmaceutical sector:

Both ‘Greenfield’ and ‘Brownfield’ FDI contribute not only to the creation of high-value jobs for the country, but also improve access to high-tech equipment and capital goods. Technology cooperation with the MNCs stimulates growth in manufacturing and R&D spaces of the domestic industry. It was articulated that any restriction to FDI in the pharmaceutical industry could make overseas investment even in the R&D sector less attractive.  India has already suffered a 40% drop in FDI between 2009 and 2010 with a 17% drop in pharmaceutical FDI.

Foreign investors look up to India for cost arbitrage and expertise in Contract Research and Manufacturing Services for improved market access. Thus, it is believed by many that FDI can lead to increased domestic pharmaceutical exports by India, as happened in countries like China and Brazil, where they have programs to encourage partnerships with MNCs to bolster their domestic industry, helping the nation to benefit more from FDI.

India is against protectionist measures by other countries – Safeguards are in place:

Moreover India as a country, is known to be quite vocal and against any form of protectionist measures by other countries which will adversely impact the trade and commerce of our nation. It was perhaps felt by the ‘Maira Committee’ that any policy decision to do away with the current practice of allowing 100% FDI will be taken by the international community as a ‘protectionist measure’ in the pharmaceutical sector of India. It was reportedly felt by them that any possible adverse impact of M&A on competition could be effectively scrutinized by the Competition Commission. At the same time, it is a known fact that any unreasonable price increase is currently being effectively addressed by the NPPA. Thus it appears, effective safeguards to protect ‘Public Health Interest’ arising out of any M&A in the pharmaceutical sector of India, have been put well in place.

FDI policy needs predictability and stability to attract more investments:

Pharmaceutical sector was opened up for 100% FDI through automatic route only in 2002 as a part of the financial reform process, positioning India as an attractive investment destination for pharmaceuticals. This reform process, investors feel, needs stability, as by partnering with MNCs local drug companies have begun to gain access to international expertise, technology, resources, good manufacturing practices and markets.

It now appears that the ‘Maira Committee’, some key ministers present in the meeting and the Prime Minister himself felt that any move, at this stage of economic progressive of the country to restrict FDI in the pharmaceutical sector, especially when appropriate safeguards are in place, will be a retrograde step in the financial reform process of India. This could adversely impact FDI not only in the Pharmaceutical sector but possibly far beyond it.


The final decision of the PM is a victory to all participants in this raging debate. All stakeholders seem to be satisfied with the decision, as their concerns have been well taken care of by the ‘Maira Committee’.

The issue of 100% FDI in the pharmaceutical sector, without putting any cap on it, has now been finally resolved, as it has come from the highest decision making authority of the country.

Both ‘Greenfield’ and ‘Brownfield’ FDI in the pharmaceutical industry of India, I reckon, will continue to contribute not only to high-value job creation, improving access to high-tech equipment and capital goods, boosting global technology cooperation in manufacturing and R&D spaces of the domestic industry, but will also make a significant contribution to the overall progress of the pharmaceutical industry of India.

The decision taken by the PM on the ‘Maira Committee’ report on October 10, 2011, therefore, seems to be a right step towards a long term nation building process without compromising with the ‘Public Health Interest’ of our country in any form.

‘Maira Committee’ has indeed delivered!

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.

FDI in ‘Brownfield’ Pharma acquisitions and the growth of ‘Greenfield’ projects in India

Just when global multinational companies are inking deals to get more and more drugs manufactured in India, because of various financial and other considerations, giving a fillip to the domestic manufacturing capacity, recent media reports are carrying news items expressing apprehensions on possible declining trend of pharmaceutical manufacturing activities in the country due to ‘brownfield’ acquisitions of the domestic pharmaceutical companies by large multinationals.

Almost around this time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data (USA) of May 2010 reported that the number of employees engaged in “pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing” in the US went down by 5% from what it was about two years ago with around 35000 layoffs in the first half of 2010.

According to ‘New York Times’, there has been around 15,000 manufacturing job loss in Europe around this period.

Where the global manufacturing capacity has started shifting then?

As compared to above, the Department of Pharmaceuticals of the Government of India, as reported by Fierce Pharma, have indicated that pharmaceutical manufacturing industry of the country employed 340,000 people during April 2008 to March 2009 period with a sizable increase in number compared to the previous period. Overall, the industry provides employment to over 4.2 million persons directly or indirectly in India (Source: IDMA). This is happening despite a series of large to medium brownfield acquisitions in the country.

Moreover, a study by the Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India and Ernst & Young, based on 50 survey respondents from 30 pharmaceutical companies in the US, Europe and Asia, projects growth of formulations manufacturing and intermediate drugs in India at a rate of 43%, which is three times more than the projected global rate.

Growth in manufacturing through global collaborations:

With a large number of the world class manufacturing facilities conforming to cGMP requirements of various regulatory authorities across the globe, India is fast emerging as a global hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing services.

Emerging pharmaceutical manufacturing environment in the country, no doubt, is attracting a large number of global pharma majors to ink contract manufacturing deals, as mentioned above, with their Indian counterparts. Such collaborative arrangements with global partners are giving a further thrust to the pharmaceutical manufacturing activities of the country. To cater to the growing demand in manufacturing, some domestic companies are setting up ‘greenfield’ projects, while others are getting engaged in major expansion of their existing manufacturing facilities.

As per Frost & Sullivan, contract manufacturing market in India registered a turnover of around US$ 2.3 billion with a CAGR of 33% on 2010. RNCOS, an Industry Research solution company estimates that this sector will grow at a CAGR of over 45% during 2011-2013, in India.

Large global pharma companies like, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Abbott, Merck, GSK and Pfizer have already inked collaborative arrangements with Indian Pharmaceutical companies related to manufacturing.

Eisai Co. Ltd of Japan inaugurated its second largest active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) production facility (after their Kashima plant in Japan) at Visakhapatnam on December 2009. The company is also to start a Research & Development (R&D) center for formulation development around the same place starting with four to five projects.

In the recent past the following predominantly manufacturing collaborative agreements have been signed by the MNCs in India:

Collaborative Deals


Multinational Companies Indian Companies


GSK Dr. Reddy’s Lab
Pfizer Aurobindo Pharma


AstraZeneca Torrent
Abbott Cadila Healthcare
Pfizer Strides Arcolab
AstraZeneca Aurobindo Pharma
Pfizer Biocon


Bayer Cadila Healthcare
MSD Sun Pharma


This is happening mainly because of inherent cost arbitrage, other factors being the same:

Comparison of Cost Advantage in India (%)

Costs in the Western Countries 100.0
Production Costs 50.0
R&D Costs 12.5
Clinical Trials Costs 10.0
Source: Pharmexcil Research

ANDAs and DMFs are manufacturing growth boosters:

Large portfolios of ANDAs and DMFs of domestic pharmaceutical players will also spur manufacturing in India:

ANDA approval by country:

Final ANDA Approvals by Country  (2007) (figs. in Nos.)



USA 169
India 132
Israel 40
Germany 25
Canada 24
Switzerland 19
Iceland 14
Jordan 11
Other 25
Source: Thomson Scientific


DMF approval by country:

Comparison of Drug Master Filings (Type II) by India, China & World (1998-2007) (Figs. in Nos.)




World Total


32 27 316


26 6 199


33 9 201


47 6 238


55 20 264


115 19 360


160 25 435


233 70 615


267 78 627


274 90 656
Source: Thomson Scientific,

Patent challenge to boost manufacturing for exports:

To further boost manufacturing, especially for exports, Indian pharmaceutical players have also started challenging global patents. In fact in patent challenge, India ranks just next to USA with a share of 21% of the total:

Country-wise Number of Patent Challenges (As on March 2008)



USA 200
India 113
Israel 89
Canada 43
Switzerland 34
Iceland 17
Germany 10
Other 32
Source: Thomson Scientific,

Boosting up domestic manufacturing with overseas acquisitions and collaborations:

At the same time, domestic Indian companies are also on a spree of overseas acquisition and collaborative deals. The following details from the Ministry of Commerce are a testimony to this fact:

Selected International Acquisitions and Foreign tie-ins by the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry


International Acquisition (s)

Foreign Alliances, JVS, and other tie-ins

Nicholas Piramal Pfizer-Morpeth (UK), Avecia Pharmaceutical (UK), Dobutrex brand acquisition (US), Rhodia’s inhalation business (UK), Biosyntech (NPIL Pharmaceutical) (Canada), Torcan Chemical (Canada), 51 percent of Boots (S. Africa), Biosyntech Ethypharm (France), Genzyme (US), Eli Lilly (US), Biogen Idec (US), Chiese Farmaceutici (Italy), Minrad (US), Pierre Fabre (France), Gilead Sciences (US), Allergan (US), Hoffmann-La Roche (Switzerland)
Ranbaxy Terapia (Romania), Allen-GSK (Spain & Italy), Ethimed (Belgium), Betapharm (Germany), RPG Aventis (France), 40 percent stake in Nihom Pharmaceuticals (Japan), Brand-Veratide (Germany), Efarmes (Spain), Be-Tabs (S. Africa), Akrikhin (Russia), Basic (Germany), Ohm Labs (US) GlaxoSmithKline (UK), Janssen-Ortho (Canada), IPCA Labs (US), Zenotech (India), Sonkel (S. Africa), Cephalon (US), Gilead Sciences (US), Schwartz (Germany)
Dr. Reddy’s Betapharm Group (Germany), Trigenesis (US), BMS Laboratories and Meridian Healthcare (UK), Roche’s active ingredients business (Mexico), BMS Labs (UK) Novo Nordisk, Bayer AG (Germany), Par (US), Novartis (Switzerland), Merck (Germany), Clin Tech, Pharmascience (Canada), ICICI (India), Merck (Germany), Schwartz
Marksans Nova Pharmaceuticals (Australia) NA
Aurobindo Milpharm (UK), Pharmacin (Netherlands) Gilead Science (US), Citadel (India)
Sun Pharmaceutical Able Lab (US), Caraco (US), Valeant Pharmaceuticals (US & Hungary), ICN (Hungary), Caraco (US), MJ Pharmaceutical Dyax
Dishman Amcis (Switzerland), Solutia’s Pharma (Switzerland) Azzurro (Japan)
Orchid Bexel Pharma (US) Stada, Alpharma, Par, Apotex
Biocon Nobex (US) Centre of Molecular Immunology (Cuba)
Wockhardt Wallis Labs (UK), CP Pharmaceutical (UK), Esparma (Germany), Pinewood Laboratories (Ireland), Dumex (India) Pharmaceutical dynamics (S. Africa)
Cadila Alpharma (France-formulations), Dabur Pharma Redrock (UK) Schering (Germany), Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany), Vitaris (Germany), Novopharm (Canada), MCPC (Saudi Arabia), Cilpharm (Ivory Coast), Geneva (US), GSK (UK), Ranbaxy (India), Mallinckrodt (US), Mayne (Australia), Shinjuki (Japan), Zydus Atlanta
Jubliant Organosys Target Research Association (US), PSI (Belgium), Trinity Laboratories (US) NA
Matrix Labs 22 percent controlling stake in Docpharma (Belgium), Explora Lab (Switzerland), MCHEM (China), Fine Chemicals (S. Africa), API (Belgium) Aspen, Emchem, Docpharma, Explora Labs
Glenmark Kinger Lab (Brazil), Uno-Ciclo (Brazil), Srvycal (Argentina), Medicamenta (Czech), Bouwer Bartlett Forest Labs (US), Lehigh Valley Technologies (US), Shasun (India), KV, Apotex (US)
Source: Source: Ministry of commerce, Government of India .(IBEF, Ernst & Young, The Economic Times, Individual company web pages)


M&A is a natural business processes in any country with appropriate safeguards for any possible adverse effect on competition.  India has already put similar safeguards in place with the scrutiny of the Competition Commission before acquisition and continuous price monitoring by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) after the acquisition is over.

It is worth mentioning, just on September 16, 2011, the Competition Commission of India, after stringent scrutiny on the impact of competition, cleared the proposal of Danone Asia Pacific to acquire the nutrition business of Wockhardt Ltd.

In the wake of all these, the apprehension that the ‘brownfield’ pharmaceutical acquisitions will retard the growth of ’greenfield’ pharmaceutical projects or have adverse impact on competition in the country, does not seem to hold much water. To a great extent FDI in ‘brownfield’ pharmaceutical acquisitions and the growth of ‘greenfield’ pharmaceutical projects in India, are unrelated.

Be that as it may, India should perhaps not expect that the country will continue to remain one of the pharmaceutical manufacturing hotspots for any indefinite period mainly because of cost arbitrage, which, in any case is not sustainable over a long period of time by any country.

As we have seen above, with the emergence of Asia, USA and EU are gradually but surely losing their pharmaceuticals manufacturing hubs’ status to China (API) and India (formulations). Who knows, some time in future, with the awakening of sleeping Africa, Asia will also not have the same fate?

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.

Tapan Ray in ‘Focus Reports’, March 2011

FR: Our last report on India dates back to 2006, right after the Patent Law was passed. What developments have you seen happening in the industry since then?

TR: There has been a paradigm shift with the Product Patent Regime coming in place in 2005. The era from 1970 to 2005 has been a very successful era of reverse engineering, when Indian manufacturers were copying and marketing innovative products in India at a fraction of their international price. Nevertheless, this also required talent, for which India had brilliant process chemists. However, the country eventually realized that reverse engineering model would not truly serve the longer term advancement of the economy in creating a conducive ecosystem to foster innovation. This realization process started in 1990 and was reinforced after signing the WTO Agreement in 1995. After the ten-year transition period, the patent law came into force in January 2005.

Since around 2005 Indian companies, which had mainly been relying on cost efficient processes, started investing in the drug discovery research. There are now at least 10 Indian companies engaged in basic research, while around 32 New Chemical Entities (NCEs) are at various stages of development.

This significant step that the country has taken so far, could not have been possible without a conscious decision to move away from the paradigm of replication to the new paradigm of innovation. More importantly, this shift has not happened at the cost of fast growing generic pharmaceutical industry in the country. Branded generics continue to grow rapidly in the new paradigm.

Today, branded generics constitute over 99% of the domestic pharmaceutical market. Of course, according to McKinsey (2007), the share of patented medicines is expected to increase to 10% by 2015. Even in that scenario 90% of the market will still constitute with branded generics in value terms.

FR: At the same time, companies are still only spending some 4% of their revenues on R&D, while internationally these numbers amount up to 12%. Many of the people in the industry seem to still see the future of India for the next 10 years to remain in manufacturing. Is innovation really the story of India right now?

TR: As I mentioned earlier, around 32 NCEs are at various stages of development from pre-clinical to Phase III. Thus, what Indian companies have achieved since 2005, is, indeed remarkable. If you now look at the investments made by the Indian pharmaceutical companies in R&D, as a percentage of turnover, you will notice an ascending trend. Though the R&D ecosystem in India cannot be compared with the developed world just yet, India is catching up.

FR: In some previous interviews we have conducted, concerns were raised over the Indian industry, saying that the local companies are selling off to international players. What is your take on this?

TR: In India, we all express a lot of sentiments and are generally emotional in nature. These are not bad qualities by any standard. However, such expressions should ideally be supported by hard facts. Otherwise these expressions cannot be justified.

Consolidation process within the industry is a worldwide phenomenon and is also taking place in India. One of the apprehensions of such consolidation process in India is that drug prices would go up, as a consequence. In my view, all such apprehensions should be judged by what has already happened in our country by now, in this area.

One example we can cite is the Ranbaxy-Daiichi-Sankyo deal, an acquisition which has not at all led to an increase in Ranbaxy’s product prices. Similarly, the acquisition of India-based Shantha Biotech by the French pharmaceutical major, Sanofi-Aventis did not lead to any increase in product prices either. It is difficult to make out how could possibly the drug prices go up when we have an effective national price regulator called National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) in India? Currently, 100% of the pharmaceutical market in the country is regulated by NPPA in one way or the other.

India is currently having a drug policy which came into force way back in 1995. As per this drug policy, any company which increases its product price which are outside price control, by more than 10% in a year, will be called for an explanation by the NPPA. Without a satisfactory explanation, the concerned product – not the product category – will be brought under price control, that too for good. In addition, intensive cut-throat competition has made pharmaceutical product prices in India the cheapest in the world, even lower than in the neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Moreover, if the potential to increase prices exists, why would any company wait for an acquisition in a highly fragmented pharmaceutical market in India?

Many of the concerns are, therefore, difficult to justify due to lack of factual data. In fact, on the contrary, the presence of multinational pharmaceutical companies in India is good for the country. These companies with their international expertise and resources would help India to build capacity in terms of training and creating a world-class talent pool. Indian companies, therefore, should consider to take more and more initiatives to partner and collaborate with these MNCs to create a win-win situation for India.

Another key advantage is in the area of market penetration. Market penetration through value-added innovative marketing has happened and has been happening all over the world; India should not let go this opportunity.

FR: In that case, how do you feel about some of the proposed protectionist measures such as a 49% cap on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)?

TR: This may, once again, be related to the strong local sentiments. India needs financial reforms and wants to attract more and more FDI. The country wants to liberalize the process of FDI and, to the best of my knowledge, any step to move backward in this area should not be contemplated.

It is also worth mentioning that the acquisitions that have taken place were not of any hostile nature. Both Indian companies and MNCs have their own sets of skills, competencies and best practices. Both cost revenue and value synergy through such consolidation process could be made beneficial for the country.

Without commenting on any specific cases, I believe India has taken significant steps to encourage and protect innovation by putting in place the product patent Act in 2005. However, there are some additional steps that the Government should take to further strengthen the process, such as fast-track courts that can quickly decide on the cases of patent infringements. Another example is that when any company will apply for marketing approval for a product, the regulator will upload the same on its website. This is an easy way for other players to detect patent infringement and start taking counter-measures at an early stage. These are examples of steps that can be taken to create a proper ecosystem without amending the law.

FR: You mentioned the paradigm shift towards innovation earlier, to some extent a similar path as China. How innovative has India become in this respect and is it sufficient in terms of clinical trials and other related aspects of the sector?

TR: With regards to attracting FDI in areas such as R&D and clinical trials, India at present is far behind China. The reason for this, as said earlier, is that the country should try to analyse why the innovator companies are not preferring India to China in these areas. Simultaneously, there is a need to assess the expectations of the innovative companies from India in various areas of IPR. One such factor that is bothering the global innovative companies is the absence of regulatory data protection in India. The Government should seriously ponder over this need and take active steps towards this direction as was proposed by ” Satwant Reddy Committee in 2007.”

FR: In your view, what is the industry going to look like in the coming years?

TR: I do not expect a radical shift in the way the Pharmaceutical Industry will be operating in the next few years. Changes will take place gradually and, perhaps, less radically. The increase of the share of patented medicines to 10% of the market share by 2015 as was forecasted by McKinsey in 2007, in my opinion, is rather ambitious. We will certainly see more and more patented products in the market, but it will be slow and gradual unless corrective measures are taken to tighten the loose knots in the Patent Amendment Act 2005, as stated earlier. As more and more Indian companies will start embracing an innovation-driven business model, the strengths and the international experience of the MNCs in this area should be leveraged to catapult the Indian pharmaceutical industry to a much higher growth trajectory.

The interview is available at the following link:


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.

Limiting FDI in Pharma is a protectionist cry: Does not benefit the common man.

“Protectionism is harmful” very aptly commented by Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Minister of India, just the other day. This was in context of “recent US moves to hike visa fees and clamp down on outsourcing”.
While almost at the same time, both Indian and the foreign media reports indicate that being concerned by the recent acquisitions of the home grown relatively large pharmaceutical and biotech companies, the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) and the Department of Industrial Policy and promotion (DIPP) of the Government of India are mulling a proposal to do away with the current practice of allowing 100% Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), as applicable to the pharmaceutical industry in India.

Even the Health Minister of India has been expressing this concern since ‘Abbott – Piramal deal’ was inked last year. He expressed the same apprehension, as he read out from his written speech, in an industry function in Mumbai held on January 7, 2011.

Thus the moot question is, will limiting FDI in pharmaceuticals be not considered by the world as a protective measure, just as ‘hiking visa fees and clamping down outsourcing’ from India by other countries?
Is it a mere speculation?
I would reckon so, as at this stage India cannot afford to take any retrograde anti-reformist measure in its endeavor to further accelerate the economic progress of the nation. The Finance Minister of India has also expressed so publicly, in the same context, quite recently.
Still the speculation is quite rife that a new cap of 49% FDI for pharmaceuticals would be able to keep the multinational companies (MNCs) away from having controlling stakes in the Indian companies, which will not jeopardize access to quality medicines at an affordable price to a vast majority of the population.
The key apprehensions:
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries in its ‘Discussion Paper’ dated August 24, 2010, which was primarily on Compulsory Licensing (CL), also expressed some of the following key apprehensions towards foreign acquisitions of the Indian pharmaceutical companies by the MNCs:
1. Such takeovers could lead to an ‘oligopolistic market’ where a few companies will decide the prices of essential medicines, adversely impacting the ‘Public Health Interest (PHI)’.
2. If large Indian companies having the wherewithal to replicate any patented molecule are taken over by the MNCs, the ‘oligopolistic’ situation thus created and being strengthened by the exclusivity of products through product patent rights, will severely limit the power of the government to face the challenge of PHI by granting CLs.
3. In such a situation MNCs could well decide to sell only the high priced patented and branded generic drugs rather than the cheaper essential drugs, pushing up the drug prices and causing inconvenience to patients.
Addressing the key apprehensions:
Let me now try to address these apprehensions impartially and with as much data as possible.
1. Can Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM) be ever oligopolistic? Dictionary defines ‘Oligopolistic market’ as ‘a market condition in which sellers are so few that the actions of any one of them will materially affect price and have a measurable impact on competitors’.
IPM has over 23,000 players and around 60,000 brands (source: IMS 2010). Even after, all the recent acquisition, the top ranked pharmaceutical company of India – Abbott, enjoys a market share of just 6.1% (source: AIOCD/AWACS , November 2010). Even the Top 10 groups of companies (each belonging to the same promoter group though different and not the individual companies) contribute just around 40% of the IPM.
Thus, IPM is highly fragmented. No company or group of companies enjoys any clear market domination. In a scenario like this, the apprehension of an ‘oligopolistic market’ being created through acquisitions by the MNCs is indeed unfounded.
2. The idea of creating a legal barrier in terms of limiting the FDIs to prevent the domestic pharma players from selling their respective companies at a price, which they would consider lucrative, just from the CL point of you, as mentioned in the ‘discussion paper’ of DIPP, sounds bizarre.
3. The market competition is also extremely fierce in India with each branded generic/generic drug (constituting over 99% of the IPM) having not less than 50 to 60 competitors within the same chemical compound. Moreover, 100% of the IPM is price regulated by the government, 20% under cost based price control and the balance 80% is under stringent price monitoring mechanism. In an environment like this, the very thought of any threat to ‘public health interest’ due irresponsible pricing, may be taken as an insult to the government’s own price regulators, who have contributed in making the medicine prices in India cheapest in the world, cheaper than even our next door neighbors like, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Hard facts tell us a different story:
The apprehension that acquisition of Indian drug companies by MNCs will hurt the consumer interest is not based on hard facts. MNCs constitute 19% of the total share of the Indian pharmaceutical market in value terms. Of the 455 companies listed in IMS ORG, 38 are foreign owned (only 8.4%). The fragmented nature of the industry ensures high level of competition that has led to the lowest prices of essential medicines in India.

Ranbaxy was the first major Indian drug company to be acquired by the Japanese MNC Daiichi Sankyo in June 2008. Two years later, the prices of medicines of Ranbaxy have remained stable, some in fact even declined. As per IMS MAT June data, prices of Ranbaxy products grew only by 0.6% in 2009 and actually fell by 1% in 2010.
Access to world class science and technology:
Even the acquisition of Shantha Biotechnique by Sanofi-aventis has enabled the domestic bio-tech company to get world class R&D support and international exposure in partnership with the one of the world’s largest vaccines development company – Sanofi-Pasteur. It is worth noting that none of the prices of locally produced vaccines by Shantha Biotechnique has gone up after this acquisition.
Data also shows that the number of products under price control is now much higher for MNCs in general than the domestic drug companies.
Other positive fall outs of acquisitions/collaborations:
All these acquisitions were absolutely voluntary in every way and brought in for the country large amount of foreign investments as can be seen in the Piramal Healthcare buyout amounting to US $3.72 billion and earlier the Ranbaxy buyout of US $4.2 billion. Such acquisitions also help in shifting investment and R&D focus of the MNCs into India, which offers good science and technology base with a significant cost arbitrage.
In my opinion, through partnering with MNCs, local drug companies have begun to gain access to international expertise, resources and good manufacturing practices. A number of local companies have already entered into alliances with MNCs to leverage these opportunities.
Thus limiting FDI in the pharmaceutical industry at this stage, when the government in fact is debating to open up the retail and the insurance sectors to foreign investments will indeed be a retrograde step for the country.

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.

Provision for Compulsory Licensing (CL) in India – some issues still need to be addressed.

Patent law systems provide for a provision for granting of compulsory licenses in a number of circumstances. Article 5A(2) of The Paris Convention, 1883 indicates that each contracting State may take legislative measures for the grant of compulsory licenses and reads as follows:“Each country of the Union shall have the right to take legislative measures providing for the grant of compulsory licenses to prevent the abuses which might result from the exercise of the exclusive rights conferred by the patent, for example, failure to work.”TRIPS agreement also contains important public health safeguards provisions to allow countries to override TRIPS requirements by engaging in compulsory licensing under certain situations and circumstances. Globally all patent systems comply with the requirements of TRIPS.

Doha declaration:

Doha Declaration gives WTO member-countries the right to grant compulsory licences (CL) and the right to decide on the reasons upon which such licences are to be granted. The declaration also states that the TRIPS Agreement should be interpreted and implemented by the member-countries in a manner to protect public health and to promote access to medicines for all.

“Safeguards provision” in India:

The Indian Patent Act 2005 bestows enough power to the Controller General of Patents, Trademarks and Designs of India to issue compulsory licenses (CL) under following different sections of the Act:

1. Section 84:

This section prevents the abuse of patent as a monopoly and states that at any time after the expiration of three years from the date of grant of a patent, any interested person may make an application to the Indian Patent Office (IPO) for grant of compulsory licence on any of the following grounds:

(a) That the reasonable requirements of the public with respect to the patented invention have not been satisfied, or

(b) That the patented invention is not available to the public at a reasonably affordable price, or

(c) That the patented invention is not worked in the territory of India

Section 6 of section 84 states that in considering the application filed under this section, the controller shall take into account the following:

(i) The nature of the invention, the time which has elapsed since the sealing of the patent and the measures already taken by the patent or licensee to make full use of the invention;

(ii) The ability of the applicant to work the invention to the public advantage;

(iii) The capacity of the applicant to undertake the risk in providing capital and working the invention, if the application is granted;

(iv) Whether the applicant has made efforts to obtain a license from the patentee on reasonable terms and conditions and such efforts have not been successful within a reasonable period as the Controller may deem fit:

Provided that this clause shall not be applicable in case of national emergencies or other circumstances of extreme urgency or in case of public non-commercial use or on establishment of a ground of anti-competitive practices adopted by the patentee.

Terms and conditions of CL will be determined by the Controller under section 90.

2. Sections 92 (1) and 92 (3):

These sections enable the Central Government to deal with circumstances of national emergency or circumstance of extreme urgency or in case of public non-commercial use by issuing CL.

3. Section 92 A:

This part enables grant of CL for export of patented pharmaceutical products in certain exceptional circumstances to any country having insufficient or no manufacturing capacity for the concerned product to address public health problems.

Some loose knots:

Some believe that there are still some loose knots in the CL provisions in India, which need to be tightened, immediately.

Granting CL for a Biopharmaceutical product could be an issue:

It will not be very easy to grant CL for a biopharmaceutical product as the conditions in which biopharmaceuticals are produced largely define the final product and its manufacturing process defines the product quality. Any alteration to the manufacturing process may result in a completely different product.

Therefore following are the main issues, which need to be urgently addressed:

• Small changes in the manufacture of biopharmaceutical and biosimilar medicinal products can dramatically affect the safety and efficacy of the therapeutic molecule.

• The very nature of a biologic means that it is practically impossible for two different manufacturers to manufacture two identical biopharmaceuticals if identical host expression systems, processes and equivalent technologies are not used. This has to be demonstrated in an extensive comparability program. Therefore a generic biopharmaceutical cannot possibly exist.

Substitution issues:

By contrasts with the situation applicable for generic chemical entities, biosimilar medicines can be “similar” but not “identical” to the innovator reference products. The “similar, but not identical” nature of biosimilar medicines means that substitution of the innovator product with a biosimilar product could have clinical consequences as patients could respond differently to the two products. To guarantee the efficacy and safety of biosimilar products, these products should only be approved following the submission of appropriate data generated with the biosimilar drug.

• Currently there are no published clear Indian guidelines for the approval of biosimilar drugs which will ensure the approval of efficacious and safe biosimilar drugs.

Some apprehensions on CL in India need to be addressed:

Some apprehensions have been expressed on possible misuse of CL and representations made to the government to address the following issues urgently. Tarceva and Stutent cases involving Nepal will probably justify such apprehensions:

o As the entire concept is based on “Working of Patents” in India, the term “Working of Patents” needs to be defined explicitly.

o Issuance of CL to be restricted to national emergency, extreme urgency and public non-commercial use

o Provisions in (Sec. 84 [7]) needs to be suitably amended that provide grounds for triggering CL by competitors for commercial benefits.

o Safeguards enshrined in the Aug 30 decision (Motta-Menon text) is to be provided for exports under Section 92A of the Indian Patents Act 2005, corresponding to Para 6 of the declaration on the TRIPS Agreement

Is paying royalty to patent holder an acceptable solution to this issue?

Many feel that this question totally ignores the right of an innovator to protect his/her innovation, which is the outcome of a painstaking, long, costly and risky R&D process. Such protection is granted to an innovator against disclosure of the data generated for the innovation to the patent office for public knowledge at large through grant of a patent for a specific time period. During this period the innovator is the exclusive owner of the innovation. The provision of CL can be invoked during this period, as stated above, for some very specific and extra-ordinary situation.

Such extra-ordinary situation, as and when will arise be addressed by the government based purely on the merits of the cases. Carte blanche permission by any authority allowing use of an innovator’s product during its patent life against a royalty payment, without innovators wish, is believed to be against the letter and spirit of Indian Patents Act 2005.


In Indian Patents Act 2005, the provisions of CL should maintain a fine balance between the critical need of innovation by the pharmaceutical companies and its reach to the users to meet their unmet needs. For a country like India, CL is probably the most appropriate safeguard against potential abuse of monopoly by the patentees in case of national emergencies and to address critical public health issues.

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.