Wish You Good Health, Happiness, Success and Prosperity in 2014
In this article I shall focus on ‘Top 7 Pharma Developments’, both while ‘Looking Back to 2013′ and also during my ‘Crystal Gazing 2014′.
Looking Back to 2013:
While looking back, the ‘Top 7 Pharma Developments’ unfolded in India during 2013, in my opinion, are as follows:
1. Supreme Court judgment on Glivec:
The landmark Supreme Court judgment on the Glivec case has vindicated, though much to the dismay of pharma MNCs, the need to strike a right balance between encouraging and protecting innovation, including incremental ones, and the public health interest of India.
2. DPCO 2013:
Following the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy (NPPP) of December 2012, the new Drug Price Control Order 2013 (DPCO 2013) signaled a significant departure from the decades old systems of arriving at both the ‘span’ and also the ‘methodology’ of drug price control in India. However, its implementation has been rather tardy as on today.
As a result, at the very beginning of the process of its effective roll-out, the new DPCO faltered badly. It created unprecedented complications and dead-locks not just for the pharmaceutical companies and the trade, but for the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), as well, which has not been able to announce the new ceiling prices for at least 100 essential drugs, even 8 months after notification of this order.
The pharma companies and the NGOs have already taken this policy to the court, though for different reasons. The rationale for the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011 has also been questioned by many along with a strong demand for its immediate review.
Thus much awaited DPCO 2013 is still charting on a slippery ground.
3. India, China revoked 4 pharma patents:
In the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) arena many National Governments have now started asserting themselves against the prolonged hegemony of the Western World pressing for most stringent patent regime across the globe, at times even surreptitiously. Such assertions of these countries signal a clear tilt in the balance, favoring patients’ health interest rather than hefty gains in business profits, much to the delight of majority of world population.
Revocation of four drug patents by India and China within a fortnight during July-August 2013 period has thus raised many eyebrows, especially within the pharma Multinational Corporations (MNCs). In this short period, India has revoked three patents and China one.
While these unexpected and rather quick developments are probably double whammy for the pharma MNCs operating in India and China, a future trend would possibly emerge as soon as one is able to connect the evolving dots.
4. Supreme Court intervened in Clinical trials (CT):
With a damning stricture to the Indian Drug Regulator, the Supreme Court, in response to a PIL filed by the NGO Swasthya Adhikar Manch, came out heavily on the way Clinical Trials (CTs) are approved and conducted in the country.
Breaking the nexus decisively between a section of the powerful pharma lobby groups and the drug regulator, as highlighted even in the Parliamentary Committee report, the Ministry of Health, as reported to the Supreme Court, is now in the process of quickly putting in place a robust and transparent CT mechanism in India.
This well thought-out new system, besides ensuring patients’ safety and fair play for all, is expected to have the potential to help reaping a rich economic harvest through creation of a meaningful and vibrant CT industry in India, simultaneously benefitting millions of patients, in the years ahead.
5. US-FDA/UK-MHRA drug import bans:
Continuous reports from US-FDA and UK-MHRA on fraudulent regulatory acts, lying and falsification of drug quality data, by some otherwise quite capable Indian players, have culminated into several import bans of drugs manufactured in those units. All these incidents have just not invited disgrace to the country in this area, but also prompted other national regulators to assess whether such bans might suggest issues for drugs manufactured for their respective countries, as well.
This despicable mindset of the concerned key players, if remains unleashed, could make Indian Pharma gravitating down, stampeding all hopes of harvesting the incoming bright opportunities.
The ‘Import Alert’ of the USFDA against Mohali plant of Ranbaxy, has already caused inordinate delay in the introduction of a cheaper generic version of Diovan, the blockbuster antihypertensive drug of Novartis AG, after it went off patent. It is worth noting that Ranbaxy had the exclusive right to sell a generic version of Diovan from September 21, 2012.
The outcome of such malpractices may go beyond the drug regulatory areas, affecting even the valuations of concerned Indian pharma companies.
6. Pharma FDI revisited in India:
After a series of inter-ministerial consultations, the Government of India has maintained 100 percent FDI in pharma brownfield projects through FIPB route. However, removal of the ‘non-compete’ clause in such agreements has made a significant difference in the pharma M&A landscape.
7. ‘No payment for prescriptions’:
Unprecedented acknowledgement and the decision of GSK’s global CEO for not making payments to any doctor, either for participating or speaking in seminars/conferences to influence prescription decision in favor of its brands, would indeed be considered as bold and laudable. This enunciation, if implemented in letter and spirit by all other players of the industry, could trigger a paradigm shift in the prescription demand generation process for pharmaceuticals brands.
Crystal Gazing 2014:
While ‘Crystal Gazing 2014′, once again, the following ‘Top 7 (most likely) Pharma Developments’, besides many brighter growth opportunities, come to the fore:
1. Public Interest Litigation (PIL) now pending before the Supreme Court challenging DPCO 2013 may put the ‘market based pricing’ concept in jeopardy, placing the pharma price control system back to square one.
2. The possibility of revision of NLEM 2011, as many essential drugs and combinations have still remained outside its purview, appears to be imminent. This decision, if taken, would bring other important drugs also under price control.
3. Universal Health Care (UHC) related pilot projects are likely to be implemented pan-India along with ‘free distribution of medicines’ from Government hospitals and health centers in 2014. Along side, more Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives may come up in the healthcare space improving access to quality healthcare to more number of patients.
4. With the Supreme Court interventions in response to the pending PILs, more stringent regulatory requirements for CT, Product Marketing approvals, Pricing of Patented Medicines and Ethical Marketing practices may come into force.
5. Possibilities of more number of patent challenges with consequent revocations and grant of several Compulsory Licenses (CL) for exorbitantly priced drugs in life-threatening disease areas like, cancer, loom large. At the same time, between 2013 and 2018, US$ 230 billion of sales would be at risk from patent expirations, offering a great opportunity to the Indian generic players to boost their exports in the developed markets of the world.
6. More consolidation within the pharmaceutical industry may take place with valuation still remaining high.
7. Overall pharma IPR scenario in India is expected to remain as robust and patient friendly as it is today, adding much to the worry of the MNCs and relief to the patients, in addition to the generic industry. More number of countries are expected to align with India in this important area.
The year 2013, especially for the pharmaceutical industry in India, was indeed eventful. The ‘Top Seven’ that I have picked-up, out of various interesting developments during the year, could in many ways throw-open greater challenges for 2014.
My ‘Crystal Gazing 2014’, would challenge the pharma players to jettison their old and traditional business mindsets, carving out new, time-specific, robust and market savvy strategic models to effectively harvest newer opportunities for growth.
That said, the pharmaceutical industry will continue to thrive in India with gusto, including the MNCs, mainly because of immense potential that the domestic market offers in its every conceivable business verticals, propelled by continuous high growth trend in the domestic consumption of medicines, excepting some minor aberrations.
The New Year 2014, I reckon, would herald yet another interesting paradigm for the pharma industry. A paradigm that would throw open many lucrative opportunities for growth, both global and local, and at the same time keep churning out different sets of rapidly evolving issues, requiring more innovative honed corporate skill-sets for their speedy redressal, as the time keeps ticking.
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.