Leading Through The Challenge Of Change: Is Pharma Leadership Too Archaic?

A recent major global survey titled “Testing The Health Of The Pharmaceutical Industry” has revealed that a sizable majority of executives polled, though believe the sector is in good shape, are concerned of its reputation. Interestingly, 73 percent of respondents believe that pharma companies should become “Genuine Healthcare Providers”.

From many other reports, as well, one gets to know that the overall image of the global pharmaceutical industry, despite the high profile personas being on the saddle, is currently as good or as bad as the same of, say, Tobacco or Alcoholic beverages sectors. Lamentably, the common perception is that the industry is hugely self-serving, problem making, largely exploitative and mostly surreptitious in its dealings.

This perception prevails, despite the fact that pharma industry exists to help mankind fighting against diseases continuously, thus improving the quality of life, quite unlike the other two industries, as indicated above.

Media reports on ignoble acts of this otherwise noble industry keep coming in tidal waves regularly and unabated, from many parts of the world, the latest being the alleged mega bribery scandal involving the large global majors in China, besides many others.

While industry leadership is generally smooth articulators, ‘Talking the Talk’ and ‘Walking the Walk’ slogans in the frontiers of ethics, values and shared goals of many of these much reported companies, are probably used to run expensive global ‘Public Relations (PR)’ campaigns, lobbying and advocacy initiatives in the corridors of power.

What then could possibly be the reason of such perception gap that this great industry is allowing to increase, over a long period of time? Could it be that pharma collective leadership has not been able to adequately adapt itself with the demands of changing healthcare environment and the needs of various nations in this space, across the globe? Is the leadership, therefore, too archaic?

Is Pharma leadership too archaic?

In this context, an interesting article titled, “Healthcare Leadership Must Shift From Cottage Industry To Big Business”, published in one of the latest issues of Forbes, though deals with issues pertaining to the ‘Healthcare Industry’ in America, nevertheless makes some interesting observations, which are relevant to India as well, just as many other countries of the world.

It states that the ‘Healthcare Leadership’ has not kept up with the industry’s evolution to big business over the past 25-30 years – nor does it possess the required change management competencies to effectively lead and rapidly turn-around an adaptive healthcare business model.

As a result, unlike many other knowledge industries, pharma sector is still struggling hard to convert the tough environmental challenges into bright business opportunities.

Inward looking leadership?

From the available details, it appears that today, mostly inward looking pharma leadership tends to ignore the serious voices demanding access to medicines, especially for dreaded diseases, such as, Cancer. Instead of engaging with the stakeholders in search of a win-win solution, global pharma leadership apparently tries to unleash yet another barrage of mundane and arrogant arguments highlighting the importance of ‘Drug Innovation’ and hyping how expensive it is. The leaders do it either themselves or mostly through their own funded trade associations.

In tandem and unhesitatingly, the leadership and/or their lobbyists reportedly exert all types of pressures even to get the relevant laws of sovereign countries amended or framed to further their business interests. The leadership continues to demonstrate its insensitivity to the concerns of a vast majority of patients, other stakeholders and their respective governments, further reinforcing its self-serving image.

Does anyone really talk against ‘Drug Innovation’?

The moot question, therefore, is: Why is this hype? Who on earth really talks against drug innovation? None, I reckon. On the contrary, drug innovation is considered by all as absolutely fundamental in the continuous combat of mankind against a galore of ailments. It should certainly be encouraged, protected and rewarded all the way, following a win-win pathway for providing access to these innovative drugs for all. There is no question about and no qualms on it.

Insensitive comments do matter:

Insensitive comments from the leadership further widens the perception gap. Let me give two examples:

I. Recently while justifying the price of US$ 1000/tab of the Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi of Gilead, the CEO of Sanofi reportedly highlighted, Unprecedented innovation comes at a price.” This is of course true, but at what price…US$ 1000/tablet? If this comment is not insensitive and outrageous, does it at least not smack of arrogance?

II. Another such insensitivity was expressed through reported proclamation in public of the Global CEO of Bayer, not so long ago, which clarified that: “Bayer didn’t develop its cancer drug, Nexavar (sorafenib) for India but for Western Patients that can afford it.” Incidentally, the above comment came from the same Bayer whose research chemists synthesized Prontosil, the first antibiotic, in 1932, more than a decade before penicillin became commercially available. Prontosil and subsequent “Sulfa” drugs – the first chemicals used to treat bacterial infections, ushered in a new era for medicine, saving millions of lives of patients globally. At that time, the then Bayer CEO probably did not say that Prontosil was developed “just for the Western Patients that can afford it.”

‘Inclusive Innovation’ for greater access:

Any innovation has to have an impact on life or life-style, depending on its type. Each innovation has a target group and to be meaningful, this group has to have access to the innovative product.

So far as drugs and pharmaceuticals are concerned, the target group for innovation is predominantly the human beings at large. Thus, to make the drug innovation meaningful, the new medicines should be made accessible to all patients across the globe, with social equity, as per the healthcare environment of each country. This underscores the point that drug innovations would have to be inclusive to make meaningful impacts on lives.

New age pharma leadership should find out ways through stakeholder engagement that innovative drugs are made accessible to majority of the patients and not just to a privileged few…fixing a price tag such as US$ 1000/tab for Sovaldi, Sanofi CEO’s above comment notwithstanding.

Leadership lessons to learn from other industries:

Traditional pharma leadership has still got a lot to learn from other industries too. For example, to speed up development of electric cars by all manufacturers, the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk of Tesla Motors has reportedly decided to share its patents under ‘Open Source’ sharing of technologies with all others. Elon Musk further reiterated:

“If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay Intellectual property (IP) landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.”

In the important ‘green’ automobile space, this is indeed a gutsy and exemplary decision to underscore Tesla Motor’s concern on global warming.

Why such type of leadership is so rare in the global pharma world? Besides some tokenisms, why the global pharma leaders are not taking similar large scale initiatives for drug innovation, especially in the areas of dreaded and difficult diseases, such as, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Metabolic disorders, just to name a few?

Finding cost-effective ways for even ‘Unprecedented’ drug innovation:

Taking a lesson from the Tesla example and also from my earlier blog post, ‘Open Source’ model of drug discovery, would be quite appropriate in the current scenario not just to promote more innovative and intensive approaches in the drug discovery process, but also to improve profit.

According to available reports, one of the key advantages of the ‘Open Source’ model would be substantial reduction of cost even for ‘Unprecedented’ innovations, besides minimizing the high cost of failures of several R&D projects. These, coupled with significant savings in time, would immensely reduce ‘mind-to-market’ span of innovative drugs in various disease areas, making these medicines accessible to many more patients and the innovation inclusive.

Indian Pharma – promoter driven leadership:

Back home in India, fast growing India Pharma businesses predominantly consist of generic drugs and are family owned. A 2011 study conducted by ‘ASK Investment Managers’ reported, “Family Owned Businesses (FOB)” account for 60 percent of market cap among the top 500 companies in India and comprise 17 percent of the IT Industry, 10 percent of refineries, 7 percent of automobiles and 6 percent of telecom, in the country. In the domestic pharmaceutical sector, almost hundred percent of the companies are currently family owned and run, barring a few loss making Public Sector Units (PSUs).

As most of these companies started showing significant growth only after 1970, we usually see the first or second-generation entrepreneurs in these family run businesses, where the owners are also the business leaders, irrespective of size and scale of operations.

However, it is unlikely that the pharma business owners in India would be willing, just yet, to go for a regime change by hiring professional leaders at the helm of a business, like what the IT giant Infosys announced the week last or Cipla did sometime back. Nevertheless, they all should, at least, attune themselves with the mindset of the new age pharma leaders to reap a rich harvest out of the opportunities, at times veiled as threats.

New leadership to be ethically grounded and engage everyone:

Unlike what is happening with the current pharma leadership today, the new age leadership needs to be ethically grounded and engage all stakeholders effectively in a transparent manner with impeccable governance.

Quoting Dr. Michael Soman, President/Chief Medical Executive of Group Health Physicians, the above Forbes article states that in the new age healthcare leadership model, the leader may not have to have all of the answers to all the problems, but he would always have a clear vision of where we wants to lead the company to.

This new leadership should create a glorious future of the pharma industry together with all other stakeholders by asking: “How can we all be part of healthcare solutions?”


Unfortunately, despite so much of good work done by the pharmaceutical industry in various fields across the world, including in India, the general public perception on the leadership of the pharma world, is still very negative for various reasons. Pharma industry also knows it well.

Thus, around the close of 2007, the Chairman of Eli Lilly reportedly said publicly what many industry observers have been saying privately for some time. He said: “I think the industry is doomed, if we don’t change”.

The available statistics also paints a grim picture of the traditional big pharma business model going from blockbuster to bust with the mindset of the leadership, by and large, remaining unchanged, barring some cosmetic touch-ups here or there.

The old business model – sprawling organizations, enormous capital investments, and spiraling costs, underwritten by a steady stream of multibillion blockbuster products – is simply a pipe dream today.

Has anything much changed even thereafter? May be not. Thus, to meet the new challenge of change in the healthcare space, doesn’t the new age pharma leadership still look too archaic, at least, in its mindset and governance pattern?

Is it, therefore, not high time for them to come out of the ‘Ostrich Mode’ collectively, face the demanding environmental needs squarely as they are, try to be a part of healthcare solutions of a nation in a win-win way and avoid being perceived as a part of the problem?

Effective leadership learning process has always been eclectic, borrowing ideas and experiences from other disciplines. In case of pharma, it could well be from other knowledge industries, such as, Information Technology (IT), Telecommunications etc. But change it must. Not just for business growth creating shareholders’ value, but for long-term survival too, basking in glory.

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.



MNCs to Challenge MNC Patents in India: Boon for Patients?

Close on the heels of a reasonably successful patent challenge by the German pharma Multinational Corporation (MNC) Fresenius Kabi for the breast cancer drug Tykerb of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in India, another MNC Mylan, with its headquarter in the United states, has explicitly expressed its plan to challenge frivolous and weak patents of MNCs, in conformance to the Indian Patents Act, to provide less expensive generic drugs to patients.

This is indeed another interesting development, which could possibly culminate into robust, cleverly crafted and fiercely competitive business strategies of many other MNCs, revolving around patent challenges in India, for business excellence in the country.

Mylan develops new products in India:

Mylan is now reportedly working with the local Indian player Biocon to develop a strong new product pipeline, which would include a portfolio of biosimilar drugs. The advanced breast cancer drug Trastuzumab (Herceptin) of Roche is just one of many in the list. Mylan has also expressed its intent to market ‘Herceptin’ at a price, which will be affordable to many more cancer patients of India.

It is worth mentioning that some other domestic Indian companies like, Reliance Life Sciences and BDR Pharma are reportedly working on generic Trastuzumab (Herceptin), besides some South Korean bio-pharma players.

Mylan has also inked an agreement with Biocon to develop and market an insulin drug derived from the global major Sanofi’s expensive patented product Lantus.

All these developments apparently augur well for India.

Weak patent?…Recapitulating Herceptin saga in india:

Though Roche decided to discontinue its patent rights for Herceptin in India, it reportedly lost this patent earlier in Europe. This vindicates the views of experts that Herceptin patent was weak, as it would probably not be able to clear the litmus test of a stringent patent scrutiny. The report, therefore, argues that core reason for withdrawal of Herceptin patent in India by Roche cannot be attributed, even remotely, to the ‘weak IP ecosystem’ in India.

To extend the patent right for Herceptin, in early September 2013, Roche reportedly announced that the European Commission has approved a new formulation of its breast cancer drug Herceptin, which allows the medicine to be administered more quickly.

A tough market, yet difficult to ignore:

For global innovator pharma majors, India still remains a tough market to crack, despite strong overseas political pressures of various types, intense collective and individual lobbying efforts and deployment of expensive global ‘Public Relations’ firms working in full steam.

Their strong success factors of the yesteryears in this area, which worked so well across the world, are getting mostly negated by the ‘evolving patient friendly IP laws’ of the emerging economies.

Considering the vast business potential of the pharmaceutical market of 1.2 billion people in India, it is now envisaged by many, more like-minded MNCs will gradually jump into this fray with similar intent of patent challenges in conformance with the Indian Patents Act 2005.

If this scenario assumes a cascading effect on a broader canvas, ultimate beneficiary will be the ailing patients, having much greater access to more affordable newer drugs for many dreaded diseases, like cancer.

Other countries too tightening up the patent laws:

To provide less-expensive generic drugs to patients, other countries also have started following India to leash astronomical prices for new drugs, especially for life threatening and intensely debilitating ailments. China has reportedly strengthened its compulsory licensing provisions already for dealing with costly drugs, paving the way to force entry of generic drugs in the Chinese market well before patent expiry.

In 2012, Indian Patent Office, in a path breaking decision granted Compulsory License (CL) to a local company, Natco Pharma, to manufacture the patented kidney-cancer drug, Nexavar of Bayer reportedly at a cost of Rs. 8,800 (around US$ 176) for a month’s therapy of 120 capsule against Bayer’s price of Rs. 280,000 (around US$ 5,600) for the same.

This is the first-ever case of CL granted in India thus far to make life saving drugs affordable to patients.

On September 3, 2012, the Indonesian government took the unprecedented step of overriding the patents on seven HIV and hepatitis treatments, citing urgent need to improve patient access. These drugs were reportedly beyond the reach of most of the patients in Indonesia.

Thailand has also used this provision more than once, and countries like, Brazil has reportedly threatened quite often for invoking CL during price negotiations of such drugs with global pharma majors.

Winds of Change in South Africa:

Now South Africa has also exhibited its firm intent to have a tight leash on the grant of pharmaceutical patents of all types.

A recent report indicates that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of the Government of South Africa is calling for comments on its proposed ‘National Policy on Intellectual Property’ by October 4, 2013, which if implemented, would significantly curb patent evergreening and expand production of generics.

The same report mentions that at present, South Africa does not examine patent applications. Instead, the system allows pharmaceutical companies to obtain multiple patents on the same drug, even for inventions, which do not fall under the country’s definition of innovation. This allows the pharma players to extend their respective patent lives, blocking competition and charging exorbitant prices.

The report also points out, while in 2008, South Africa granted 2,442 pharmaceutical patents, Brazil approved only 278 in the 5 years between 2003 and 2008.

Patents revoked in India:

Since November 2010 following 8 MNC patents have been revoked in India after respective patent challenges:

  • Combigan and Ganfort of Allergan (for specified eye conditions)
  • Tykerb of GSK (for breast cancer)
  • Sutent of Pfizer (for liver and kidney cancer)
  • Pegasys of Roche (for hepatitis C)
  • Iressa of AstraZeneca (Anti-cancer)
  • Anti-asthma FDC aerosol suspension of Merck & Co (Anti-asthma)
  • Dulera of Novartis (Anti-asthma)

China and Brazil revoked patents

In August 2013, just about a year after China introduced the country’s amended patent law, its State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) has reportedly revoked the patent on HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B drug – Viread (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) of Gilead Science Inc.

Aurisco, the largest manufacturer of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) in China, challenged this patent. The ground of patent revocation was that the drug lacked novelty and was not entitled to protection.

In 2008 Brazil also declared the patent of tenofovir invalid. It is worth mentioning that tenofovir of Gilead is the third-best-selling drug of the company, clocking sales of US$ 849 million in 2012.

Top 10 ‘jaw-dropping’ most expensive medicines of the world:

No. Name Disease Price US$ /Year
1. ACTH Infantile spasm 13,800,00
2. Elaprase Hunter Syndrome 657,000
3. Soliris Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria 409,500
4. Nagalazyme Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome 375,000
5. Folotyn T-Cell Lymphoma 360,000
6. Cinryze Hereditary Angioedema 350,000
7. Myozyme Pompe 300,000
8. Arcalyst Cold Auto-Inflammatory Syndrome 250,000
9. Ceredase / Cerezyme Gaucher Disease 200,000
10. Fabrazyme Fabry Disease 200,000

(Source: Medical Billing & Coding, February 6, 2012)

The good news is, protests against such ‘immoral and obscene pricing’ have started mounting, which are expected to have a snow-balling effect in the years ahead.

Mounting global protests:

Probably due to this reason, drugs used for the treatment of rare diseases are being reported as ‘hot properties for drug manufacturers’, all over the world.

The above report highlighted a changing and evolving scenario in this area.

In 2013, the Dutch Government had cut the prices of new enzyme-replacement therapies, which costs as high as US$ 909,000. Similarly, Ireland has reduced significantly the cost of a cystic fibrosis drug, and the U.K. rejected a recommendation to expand the use of a drug for blood disorders due to high costs.

Soon, the United States is also expected to join the initiative to reduce high prices of orphan drugs as both the government and private insurers increasingly come under the cost containment pressure.

Emerging markets – the Eldorado:

Competition within MNCs is expected to be even more fierce in the coming years as the developed markets continue to slow down, as follows, due to various reasons:

No. Country


% Share

Val. Gr.

Global Pharma Market
































13. India




Source: IMS Knowledge Link Global Sales 2012

This compelling scenario is prompting a change in the dynamics of competition within  MNCs in the emerging pharmaceutical markets. The intents of Fresenius Kabi and Mylan, as enunciated above, I reckon, are just very early signals of this challenge of change.

All these would probably help turning the tide in favor of a seemingly win-win solution to bring down the prices of patented medicines at an affordable level, improving their access to vast majority of patients in the world.

Scope for more patent challenges in India:

Quoting a study, a recent media report highlighted that only 3% of the patent applications filed in India since 2006 were challenged. The study concluded:

“This demonstrates that given the various resource constraints faced by the Indian patent office, one can never really be sure of the patent quality unless the patent is challenged.”

Therefore, this process is expected to gain momentum in the years ahead as more MNCs join the fray of patent challenges, though driven primarily by business interests, but nevertheless, would benefit the patients, in the long run.

Further, as indicated in my previous columns, study indicates that 86 pharmaceutical patents granted by the IPO post 2005 are not breakthrough inventions but only minor variations of existing pharmaceutical products and demanded re-examination of them.

Since, most of the above patents have not been challenged, as yet, the quality of these patents cannot be ascertained beyond any reasonable doubt, as we discuss today. If challenged, some experts envisage, these patents may not be able to stand the scrutiny of section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act.

In that sense, if the pharma MNCs with deep pockets, challenge these patents, there stands a good chance of making generic equivalents of those products at affordable prices for the Indian patients.

However, considering different degree and elements of market entry barriers, it appears, most of the patent challenges in India by the MNCs would probably be for biologics, as compared to small molecule chemicals.

Flow of newer drugs in the Indian market is now irreversible:

Taking stock of the emerging scenario, it appears, India will continue to see newer drugs coming into the market at a lower price in the years ahead, come what may. This flow seems to be unstoppable due to the following reasons:

  • Stricter implementation of Section (3d) of the Patents Act in India will ensure that NCEs/NMEs not conforming to this act will not be granted patents. In that case, those products will be open to generic copying by all, in India. Thus, in the absence of a market monopoly situation and fuelled by intense price competition, the patients will have access to those newer drugs.
  • More patent challenges of already granted patents could lead to revocation of more number of patents paving the way for entry of their generic equivalents.
  • If any MNC decides not to launch a new product in India having obtained its patent from the IPO, after three years, as per the statute, the same product becomes a candidate for CL in the country.
  • If any patented new product is launched without ‘reasonably affordable price’, again as per statute, the possibility of applications for CL coming to the IPO from the local players will loom large.

Hence, considering all these points, it appears, if the new products do not conform to the Indian Patents Act and are not launched with responsible pricing, the possibility of their generic entry at much lower prices is almost inevitable.


Legal battle is expensive, even in India, and patent challenges are perhaps more expensive. All those new products, which are not patentable in India or may otherwise be challenged against other statutes of the Patents Act, will carry risks of getting caught in protracted litigations or generic competition.

MNCs with deep pockets coming forward with such intent, though may be based purely on their business interest in India, would ultimately offer spin-off benefits of affordable pricing, especially, to the patients suffering from life threatening and fast debilitating illnesses like, cancer.

That said, do all these developments unravel yet another way to improve access to newer medicines in India, signaling a boon for patients?

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.


The Indian and Global Pharmaceutical Industry – A brief perspective to meet the challenge of change

January 1, 2005 ushered in a paradigm shift in the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry with the new product patent regime. Future of the industry, thereafter, will never be the same again as what we have been witnessing since 1970.

Gradually India, which was synonymous to cheaper copycat generic versions of products patented in most of the developed and emerging pharmaceutical markets of the world, is expected to transit through a relatively ‘lull period’ for a shorter duration, before it starts helping to establish India as a force to reckon with, in the pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) space of the world. We have seen some glimpses of the era to come by through initial basic research initiatives of companies like, Ranbaxy, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Piramal Life Science and Glenmark. All such companies are gradually transforming their R&D focus from reverse-engineering to developing new chemical/molecular entity (NCE/NME) or novel drug delivery systems (NDDS).

Opportunities during the paradigm shift:

The low cost base, large English speaking technical talent pool and development of world class R&D facilities of the country will play the role of catalysts in this fast changing process and throw open many new vistas of opportunities for the industry to cash on.

At the same time, generic companies will play even more important global role than ever before. Many of them will no longer remain a local branded generic or generic player, they will open their wings to fly down to the important global destinations. Some others will collaborate with multi-national pharmaceutical companies (MNCs) in their contract research and manufacturing services (CRAMS) initiatives. For others, the domestic pharmaceutical market will still remain big and lucrative enough to grow their business.

However, those companies, which will not be able to effectively combat the ‘challenge of rapid changes’ will either perish or be gobbled-up by the big fishes in the consolidation process of the local and global pharmaceutical industry.

Some perspectives:

Though the domestic Indian pharmaceutical industry caters to around 70% of the requirements of pharmaceuticals of the nation, is highly fragmented. The industry manufactures 8% of the global production being the fourth largest producer of pharmaceuticals in terms of volume and employs over half a million people, mostly by around 300 large to medium sized companies in their local and global operations. Although around 6000 companies are engaged in manufacturing, many of them are third party manufacturers. Small manufacturers, who do not conform to ‘Schedule M’ requirements of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act will face or have already started facing trying times.

In terms of value, at present, India with around U.S 7.8 billion turnover, shares just around 2% of the global market with 14th in ranking. McKinsey forecasts that by 2015 India will record a turnover of U.S$ 20 billion and will improve its rank in the global pharma league table to 10th.

Key markets of the domestic Indian companies:

Although India still remains one of the major markets of the domestic Indian pharmaceutical companies, many of them have already established their business in the US, Europe, Latin America, Russian Federation, Africa, Middle East, South East Asia and even in Japan and Australia.

Contribution of India business of different Indian pharmaceutical companies to their global business varies based on their respective business strategies, from 63% of Zydus Cadila to around 16% of DRL, in 2007-08.

US market followed by Europe, is the main revenue earner for most of the large Indian companies. For example Ranbaxy generated around 27% and 20% of their global turnover from the US and Europe, respectively in 2008.

However, for some other companies like Wockhardt, Europe is a more important market than USA. Wockhardt generated around 54% of their global turnover from Europe, in 2007.

Global market entry strategy:

Different Indian companies adopted different market entry and expansion strategies in their globalization process. However, these have been mostly driven mergers and acquisitions.

Is the Indian pharmaceutical industry facing a dire need for an image makeover?

Despite significant contribution of the Indian pharmaceutical industry to provide relatively cheaper generic medicines to address a wide array of ailments of a vast majority of the population, the image of the industry to its stakeholders or even to public at large, is far from satisfactory.

There are some key perceptual reasons for the same. Some of these are as follows:

1. Pharmaceutical industry is making exorbitant profits at the cost of the basic healthcare needs of the common man.

This perception gets further strengthened when, for example, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) demands crores of rupees from many pharmaceutical companies for overcharging to the patients and notices are served even attaching their properties to recover these dues.

2. The quality of all medicines is not reliable.

This gets vindicated when, for example, the government for its ‘Jan Aushadhi’ program refuses to buy from certain groups of licensed pharmaceutical manufacturers, predominantly on product quality parameters.

3. Some questions, do the pharmaceutical manufacturers in India manufacture medicines following the highest quality norms?

To answer to this question some people argue; if so, why will Indian manufacturers need stringent manufacturing quality certification of the drug regulators of the developed markets to export medicines in the those countries? Why the manufacturing quality certification given to these exporters by the Indian drug regulator is not accepted in those countries?

Moreover, when medicines are imported into India, we accept the quality norms of the drug regulators of the developed countries.

4. Some sections of the media highlight the alleged malpractices by the Indian pharmaceutical companies to promote their mediciness to the medical profession. Such alleged high expenditure towards product promotion is considered by many as avoidable wasteful expenses, the benefit of which can easily be passed on to the patients.

Indian pharmaceutical industry is yet to develop a uniform code of marketing practices, which will be applicable to all the pharmaceutical companies across the board and implement the same effectively, to address such allegations.

Multinational Companies – friends or foes?

To partly salvage the situation, at the same time, one notices open attempts are being made to project the multinational drug companies as demons, the exploiters with a suspicious agenda of thwarting the growth of the domestic companies. In such a scenario, it is indeed perplexing, when one sees the names of the Indian companies at the top of the NPPA lists who allegedly overcharged maximum amount of money to the common man.

What the industry should do jointly:

Under such sad circumstances, the entire industry should come together, take a hard look on itself first and extend its helping hands in public private partnership (PPP) initiatives for the benefit of the civil society.

Such PPP may not necessarily be charitable. It could focus on developing a robust healthcare financing model with industry expertise, for implementation with the government involvement for all strata of society. Or, for example, the industry should come out with a plan, which the US Pharmaceutical trade association – PhRMA has recently proposed to the Obama administration voluntarily on their ‘Medicare’ program, for the senior citizens of America.

For image makeover the name of the game is actual ‘demonstration’ of the good intent and NOT ‘pontification’ of what others should do, highlighting the identified loopholes in the government machineries.


In the midst of the global financial meltdown, beginning 2009, no one is still able to fathom what impact, if at all, will it leave on to the global pharmaceutical industry.

In the most populous country of the world – China, in April 2009, the government unfolded the blueprints of new healthcare reform measures, covering the entire nation.

Similarly, in the oldest democracy and the richest country of the world – United States of America, President Barak Obama administration expressed their resolve to address important healthcare related issues, as an integral part of the economic reform of the country.

In other developed markets of the world like Europe and Japan intense cost containment pressure is in turn creating significant pricing pressure on pharmaceuticals, triggering the demand of greater use of cheaper generic formulations.

Financial meltdown though eroded the market capitalization of most of the companies; the growth of the global pharmaceutical industry remained unabated till 2008, albeit at a slower pace though. Many markets of the world witnessed a faster generic switch, fuelling higher volume growth of the generic segment of the industry.

Some perspectives:

In 2008 the global pharmaceutical market size was of U.S$ 780 billion, which is expected to grow to U.S$ 937 billion in 2012 registering a 5 year CAGR of around 5.5%. Sales worth U.S$ 253 billion came from just 100 blockbuster drugs, contributing around one third of the global pharmaceutical market.

USA with a retail revenue turnover of U.S$ 206 is the largest market of the world, though currently showing a sharp decline in its growth rate. The growth rate of the US is expected to drop further along with the patent expiry of other blockbuster drugs.

Just three countries of Europe, U.K, France and Germany contributed to 50% of pharmaceutical sales of entire Europe.

Doctors’ are no longer the sole decision maker to prescribe a medicinal product:

Just like in the US, one witnesses a change in the role of the medical professionals as a key decision maker to prescribe medicines for the patients in Europe, as well. More and more, payors like health insurance companies, NHS are assuming that role.

A shift from small molecule pharmaceuticals to large molecule biotech products:

As small molecule pharmaceuticals are coming under intense pricing pressure, the focus of new drug launches is shifting towards more expensive large molecule biotech drugs with much higher margins of profit increasing the treatment cost further.

The brighter side:

Growing middle class population with higher disposable income together with increase spending of the government towards healthcare, in most of these countries, are making the pharmaceutical industry grow at a much faster pace in the emerging markets like, Brazil, Venezuela, Russia, China, India, Turkey, Mexico and Korea. However, the revenue and profit earned by the global companies from the developed markets are still far more than the emerging markets of the world.

Access to healthcare still remains a global issue:

Despite so much of progress of the global pharmaceutical industry, access to healthcare still remains an issue, besides others, even in some of the developed markets of the world. The waiting period of a patient just to get an appointment of the doctor is increasing fast. Even in the US about 47 million of US citizens still are not covered by insurance, besides many more of them who remain underinsured.

Global pharmaceutical industry is still considered a part of the problem:

Despite meeting the unmet needs of the patients through intensive research and development initiatives and various global access programs for the needy and the downtrodden, the civil society all over the world, including in the developed countries, still believes that the pharmaceutical industry is a part of the global healthcare problems, though relatively more in the developing and the least developed economies of the world. These perceptions are mainly due to high costs of patented drugs, high research expenditure for low value added drugs and seemingly unethical marketing practices of the industry across the board with varying degree.


The pharmaceutical industry, the ultimate savior in the battle against disease, is now passing through a critical phase both locally and globally and both in terms of its image and capacity to deliver newer medicines ensuring their affordable access, the reason of which may vary from country to country.

Be that as it may, the industry has been making significant contribution to the humanity to meet the ever increasing unmet needs of the patients. However, expectations of the stakeholders are also growing and justifiably so. There is no time for the industry, in general, to ponder much now or rest on the past laurels. It is about time to walk the never ending extra mile, for the global patients’ sake.

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.