The Game Changers in 2012 and A Crystal Gazing into 2013

Wish You and Your Dear Ones Best of Health, Happiness, Success and Prosperity in The Brand New Year.

Welcome 2013

 The Global Pharmaceutical Industry (GPI), by and large, used to be considered as ‘recession-proof’ for various valid reasons. However, the waves of ‘global economic meltdown’ since last several years prompted the rating service Moody to downgrade its outlook to ‘Negative’ in 2007.

However, on September 24, 2012 the same rating service upgraded the outlook of the GPI to ‘Stable’ from “Negative,” indicating subsiding impact of the wave of drug patent expiration, come 2013.

Various other sources also vindicate that the GPI has in fact now bottomed-out. Available data from IMS Health estimates that the industry will grow from US$ 956 billion in 2011 to around US$ 1004 billion by end 2012 with a growth of approximately 5 percent driven mainly by:

-      Cost optimization

-      Higher  disease prevalence across the world

-      Increasing per capita income

The United States continue to maintain its top slot in the industry followed by the European Union and Japan.

All may not be hunky-dory in the GPI just yet, nevertheless 2013 does point towards some early signs of revival after a very uncertain period, prompting a paradigm shift, especially in the mind-set of the global players. This emerging trend could well form a separate topic of discussion altogether in some other time.

Buoyancy in India:

Back home in India the situation is quite different. The Indian Pharmaceutical Industry (IPI) still remains recession-proof. The market buoyancy continued as ‘PharmaTrac India’ reported a turnover of the domestic pharmaceutical market at around US$ 12.6 billion growing over 15 percent annually.

In this article I shall focus on the domestic pharmaceutical market of India.

The Game Changers of 2012:

Looking back, during the year 2012 the ‘Top Five Game Changers’ for the Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM), in my opinion, are as follows:

1. A DIFFERENT ‘Drug Policy’ after 10 years:

The ‘National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2012 (NPPP 2012)’ heralds a paradigm shift in the pharmaceutical price control regime of India for the years ahead with a switch from the ‘Cost Based Pricing CBP)’ methodology to ‘Market Based Pricing (MBP)’ and also in its ‘National List of Essential Medicines 2011 (NLEM 2011)’ based span of price control.

The industry has already articulated, though the new policy will make an immediate and significant adverse financial impact on them, market based pricing is directionally prudent for all in the longer term. They feel that MBP is expected to help improving both affordability and availability of medicines.

Such a policy, some stakeholders believe, along with the Government initiative to make essential medicines available free of cost through public hospitals and health centers will benefit all sections of the society, giving a boost to overall consumption of pharmaceutical products in India. It is also good to note that the new policy promises price control exemptions for patented drugs and products with NDDS developed in India through indigenous R&D.

NPPP 2012, is expected to be a game changer for the industry by many, as it will help bringing more stability in the pharma pricing regulation system of India.

However, there is a flip side to this story.

All stakeholders are not equally happy with the NPPP 2012.

In this context, it is worth noting that in an ongoing Public Interest Litigation before the Supreme Court by ‘All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN)’, the petitioner has already drawn the attention of the Court to their ‘Interim Application’ challenging the NPPP 2012 by stating that the ‘policy finalized by the Government will in effect do away with the very notion of price controls’. In response the apex court reportedly had observed that it will consider the averments of AIDAN in the next hearing of January 15, 2013, once the printed Gazette Notification is put on record before the Court by the Government.

2. First ever grant of Compulsory License in India:

On March 12, 2012, Indian Patent Office (IPO), in its landmark ruling, granted its first ever Compulsory License (CL) for Bayer’s patented kidney and liver cancer drug Nexavar (Sorafenib), to the generic pharma player Natco, broadly citing the following reasons:

  • Reasonable requirements of public under Section 84 have not been satisfied.
  • The Patented Drug was not available to the public at a reasonably affordable price as per Section 84 (1) (b).
  • Patented invention is not worked in the territory of India as per Section 84 (1) (c)

The 62 page order of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Mark (CGPDTM) granted the CL to Natco for the rest of patent life of sorafenib in India at the high end of the UNDP 2001 royalty guidelines at 6 percent.

Though the research based pharmaceutical industry across the world expressed its deep disappointment and anguish over the judgment, many experts and NGOs from different parts of the globe, on the contrary, have reportedly hailed this order as a game changer to improve access to high-priced patented medicines in the country with a firm conviction that the ‘Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)’ and ‘Patients’ Access Issues’ can not tread different paths. They have reportedly opined that CGPDTM has set a right precedence by granting a CL for an exceptionally high-priced sorafenib, which will ensure, in the times to come, that “patent monopolies are kept limited, especially when the patented products are not ‘reasonably affordable’, as stated in the statute”.

Many people, therefore, envisage that if responsible pricing strategy for patented medicines is not followed in India even after the grant of first ever CL by the IPO, one could  well expect other generic players applying for CL mainly for the imported high priced patented medicines purely as a business strategy, but citing the reason of improving patients’ access in the country.

3. First ever Guidelines for Biosimilar Drugs in India: 

Across the world, biologic drugs have a successful record in treating many life threatening and other complicated ailments. Expiration of product patents of the first major group of originators’ biologic molecules has led to the development of products that are designed to be ‘similar’ to the originators’ products, as it is virtually impossible to replicate any protein substances, unlike the ‘small molecule’ drugs. These are ‘Biosimilar Drugs’, which rely, in part, on prior information obtained from the innovators’ products and demonstration of similarity with the originator’s molecule based on detailed and comprehensive product characterization, for their marketing approval.

India has the potential to become one of the key players in the development and manufacture of biosimilar drugs, not only to serve the needs of the local population, but also for export to large developed markets. However, for this dream to materialize, a science-driven ‘Biosimilar Guidelines’ are absolutely necessary. These guidelines provide a regulatory framework or pathway to ensure that ‘Biosimilar Drugs’ are of good quality and demonstrably similar in efficacy, safety and immunogenicity to the original reference products.

Considerable developments have occurred across the globe, in the scientific and regulatory understanding of biosimilar drugs. Nearly all developed nations and many developing countries have now defined appropriate regulatory framework for the same. However, due to lack of such guidelines in India, until recently, there have been instances of so called ‘biosimilar drugs’ being approved for marketing, reportedly with sub-optimal testing and dossiers, thereby putting into question product quality, comparability and patient safety.

Under this back-drop, the need for such a regulatory framework and comprehensive guidelines is even greater in India, mainly in the light of sub-optimal pharmacovigilance system in the country, besides other reasons.

Keeping these issues in view, the Ministries of Health & Family Welfare and the Science and Technology released India’s first “Guidelines on Similar Biologics: Regulatory Requirements for Marketing Authorization in India” in 2012. These Guidelines have been made operational effective September 15, 2012.

Long awaited new ‘Biosimilar Guidelines’ of India, demonstrating an overall similarity in the philosophy and approach with the those in the U.S and Europe, though a belated move by the Government, but certainly yet another game changer of 2012.

I reckon, this critical step will help ‘Made in India’ biosimilar drugs availing opportunities in the emerging biosimilar markets of the world including Europe and America.

4. Increase in National Health Expenditure Budget from 1% to 2.5% of GDP:

This decision of the Government in 2012 could help paving the way to provide basic healthcare services to all citizens of India through “Universal Health Coverage (UHC)”, which has the vast potential to be another game changer in the healthcare space of India.

It is envisaged that UHC will ensure guaranteed access to essential health services for every citizen of the country, including cashless in-patient and out-patient treatment for primary, secondary and tertiary care. All these services will be available to the patients absolutely free of any cost.

Under UHC all citizens of India will be free to choose between Public Sector facilities and ‘contracted-in’ Private Providers for healthcare services. It is envisaged that people would be free to supplement the free of cost healthcare services offered under UHC by opting to pay ‘out of pocket’ or going for private health insurance schemes.

Thus, UHC, I reckon, will also be able to address simultaneously the critical issue of high ‘out of pocket’ healthcare expenses of the common citizens and at the same time increase consumption of overall healthcare, giving a boost to the growth of the pharma industry together with other healthcare sectors.

Implemented sooner, ignoring motivated stalling tactics by the vested interests, if any, could usher-in the dawn of a new healthcare reform process in India for all.

5. Announcement of Distribution of Essential Drugs free of cost to all, from Government Hospitals and Dispensaries:

In July 2012 the Government of India took a landmark ‘Public Healthcare’ related initiative to provide unbranded generic formulations of all essential drugs, featuring in the ‘National List of Essential Medicines 2011’, free of cost to all patients, from the public hospitals and dispensaries across the country.

This social sector project was expected to roll out, as reported in the media, from October/November 2012 with a cost of around US$ 5 billion during the 12th Five Year Plan period of the country. Considering medicines account for around 70% of the total ‘Out of Pocket’ expenses, this particular initiative is expected to be yet another game changer to benefit, especially the poorer patients of the society.

This new scheme, I reckon, has also the potential to hasten the overall growth of the pharmaceutical industry, as poor patients who could not afford will now have access to essential medicines. On the other hand, rapidly growing middle class population will continue to favor branded generic drugs prescribed by the doctors at the private hospitals and clinics.

Some people are apprehending that generic drug makers will have brighter days as the project starts rolling on. This apprehension is based on the assumption that large branded generic players will be unable to take part in this big ticket drug procurement process of the Government, which seems to be imaginary.

However, in my view, it could well be a win-win situation for all types of players in the industry, where both the generic-generic and branded-generic businesses will continue to grow simultaneously.

That said procedural delays and drug quality issues, while procuring cheaper generics, may pose to be a great challenge for the Government to ensure speedier implementation of this project. Drug regulatory and law enforcing authorities will require to be extremely vigilant to ensure that while sourcing cheaper generic drugs, “Public health and safety” due to quality issues do not get compromised in any way.

A Crystal Gazing into 2013:

While Crystal Gazing into 2013, following seven possible developments come to the top of my mind:

  1. New Drug Policy may get caught in Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
  2. UHC related pilot projects may start coming up.
  3. More stringent regulatory requirements for Clinical Trials, Product Marketing approvals, Pricing of Patented Medicines and Ethical Marketing practices may come into in-force.
  4. Along with public investments more private initiatives, both global and local, are expected in the healthcare infrastructure space including in e-healthcare.
  5. Domestics Pharma Companies could challenge increasing number of patents and may also apply for Compulsory Licenses following the set precedence of 2012.
  6. The Supreme Court judgment on Glivec case could bring more clarity in ‘incremental innovation’ in general and the Section 3(d) in particular.
  7. More consolidation within the pharmaceutical industry may take place with valuation still remaining high.


The year 2012, especially for the pharmaceutical industry in India, was indeed eventful. The ‘Top Five’ that I have picked-up out of various interesting developments during the year, could in many ways be the ‘Game Changers’ for the industry during the years ahead.

Key measures, both in the public and private space, be it fostering R&D or improving access to healthcare for the general population, fell well short of adequate even in 2012.

My ‘Crystal Gazing into 2013’, if comes true, will make the year even more eventful in India. The new year could signal herald of yet another interesting  paradigm. A paradigm that may churn quite different sets of rapidly evolving issues requiring more innovative honed skill-sets for their speedy redressal, as the time keeps moving on.

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 and also do not contribute to any other blog or website with the same article that I post in this website. Any such act of reproducing my articles, which I write in my personal capacity, in other blogs or websites by anyone is unauthorized and prohibited.


India and China…Practical relevance of ‘Priority Watch List (PWL)’ status in ‘Special 301 Reports’ of America…and the REAL ‘Game Changers’

Many stakeholders around the world believe that Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) environment in China is far better than what we have in India. Interestingly “2010 Special 301 Report” of the United States of America dated April 30, 2010, paints a totally different picture.

The priority watch list (PWL)’ countries:

The Office of The United States Trade Representative, in the Press Release of ’2010 Special 301 report’, mentioned the names of PWL countries as follows:
“Trading partners on the Priority Watch List (PWL) do not provide an adequate level of IPR protection or enforcement, or market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection. China, Russia, Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela are on the Priority Watch List. These countries will be the subject of particularly intense engagement through bilateral discussion during the coming year”.

It is, therefore, quite clear that so far as IPR environment is concerned both China and India feature in the PWL of America. This totally breaks the perceived myth, as is being very often made out to be by many, that China is a better implementer of IPR than India.
Reasons for featuring in the ‘Priority Watch List’ (PWL):
“2010 Special 301 Report” makes the following comments for China and India being in the PWL of the USA:

1. China will remain on the Priority Watch List in 2010 and will remain subject to Section 306 monitoring. China’s enforcement of IPR and implementation of its TRIPS Agreement obligations remain top priorities for the United States…the overall level of IPR theft in China remains unacceptable.
2. The United States is heartened by many positive steps the Chinese government took in 2009 with respect to these issues, including the largest software piracy prosecution in Chinese history, and an increase in the numbers of civil IP cases in the courts.
3. The United States is also deeply troubled by the development of policies that may unfairly disadvantage U.S. rights holders by promoting “indigenous innovation” including through, among other things, preferential government procurement and other measures that could severely restrict market access for foreign technology and products.
4. China’s IPR enforcement regime remains largely ineffective and non-deterrent.
5. The U.S. copyright industries report severe losses due to piracy in China.
6. Counterfeiting remains pervasive in many retail and wholesale markets.
7. China maintains market access barriers, such as import restrictions and restrictions on wholesale and retail distribution, which can discourage and delay the introduction into China’s market of a number of legitimate foreign products that rely on IPR.
8. China’s market access barriers create additional incentives to infringe products.
9. China adopts policies that unfairly advantage domestic or “indigenous” innovation over foreign innovation and technologies.
10. Draft Regulations for the Administration of the Formulation and Revision of Patent-Involving National Standards, released for public comment in November 2009 by the Standardization Administration of China (SAC), raise concerns regarding their expansive scope, the feasibility of certain patent disclosure requirements, and the possible use of compulsory licensing for essential patents included in national standards.
11. With respect to patents, on October 1, 2009, the Third Amendment to China’s Patent Law, passed in December 2008, went into effect. While many provisions of the Patent Law were clarified and improved, rights holders have raised a number of concerns about the new law and implementing regulations, including the effect of disclosure of origin requirements on patent validity, inventor remuneration, and the scope of and procedures related to compulsory licensing, among other matters. The United States will closely follow the implementation of these measures in 2010.
12. The United States encourages China to provide an effective system to expeditiously address patent issues in connection with applications to market pharmaceutical products.
13. The United States continues to have concerns about the extent to which China provides effective protection against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products.
14. Generally, IPR enforcement at the local level is hampered by poor coordination among Chinese government ministries and agencies, local protectionism and corruption, high thresholds for initiating investigations and prosecuting criminal cases, lack of training, and inadequate and non-transparent processes. As in the past, the United States will continue to review the policies and enforcement situation in China at the sub-national levels of government.

1. India will remain on the Priority Watch List in 2010.
2. India continues to make gradual progress on efforts to improve its legislative, administrative, and enforcement infrastructure for IPR.
3. India has made incremental improvements on enforcement, and its IP offices continued to pursue promising modernization efforts.
4. Among other steps, the United States is encouraged by the Indian government’s consideration of possible trademark law amendments that would facilitate India’s accession to the Madrid Protocol.
5. The United States encourages the continuation of efforts to reduce patent application backlogs and streamline patent opposition proceedings.
6. Some industries report improved engagement and commitment from enforcement officials on key enforcement challenges such as optical disc and book piracy.
7. However, concerns remain over India’s inadequate legal framework and ineffective enforcement.
8. Piracy and counterfeiting, including the counterfeiting of medicines, remains widespread and India’s enforcement regime remains ineffective at addressing this problem.
9. The United States continues to urge India to improve its IPR regime by providing stronger protection for patents.
10. One concern in this regard is a provision in India’s Patent Law that prohibits patents on certain chemical forms absent a showing of increased efficacy. While the full import of this provision remains unclear, it appears to limit the patentability of potentially beneficial innovations, such as temperature-stable forms of a drug or new means of drug delivery.
11. The United States also encourages India to provide protection against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products.
12. The United States encourages India to improve its criminal enforcement regime by providing for expeditious judicial disposition of IPR infringement cases as well as deterrent sentences, and to change the perception that IPR offenses are low priority crimes.
13. The United States urges India to strengthen its IPR regime and will continue to work with India on these issues in the coming year.

Responses and reactions in India:
‘Special 301 Reports’ have always been received with skepticism both by the Government of India and the domestic media. Even in the past, PWL status has hardly bothered either India or China to bring in a radical change in the IPR environment of the respective countries, as desired by the USA.

A recent article on the ‘Special 301 Report 2010’ that appeared in ‘Business Standard’, Sunday, May 2, 2010 comments as follows:

“India, in fact, continues to be on the ‘priority watch list’ of the USTR’s ‘Special 301’ report, despite a detailed submission of the intellectual property rights (IPR) compliance measures initiated by it in 2009”.

Many stakeholders in India feel and have also articulated that despite the country taking important steps to improve implementation of IPR within the country, the position of India in ‘Special 301 Reports’ has not changed much since last so many years. India, therefore, envisages no harsh measures by the US Government as a result of being continuously in the PWL of the ‘Special 301 Reports’.

Why then China attracts more Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) than India in the Pharmaceutical space?

In my view, this has got not much to do with the IPR environment in these two countries. The key ‘Game Changers’ for China, I reckon, are as follows:

1. Larger market size due to greater access to medicines:
Access to medicine in China covers 85% of their 1.2 billion population, against 35% of 1.1 billion population of India.

2. Larger market size due to better affordability of medicine:

Around 85% of the population in China is covered through various medicine price reimbursement schemes. Whereas in India around 78% of such expenditure is ‘out of pocket’ expenses. Conversely, not more than 22% of the population is currently covered by drug price reimbursement schemes in India.

3. Strong signals to the Government that ‘innovative companies’ are contributing to the ‘Economic Progress’ of the country:

In such a booming pharmaceutical market scenario, it is essential for the business to keep the government engaged to help create a more ‘innovative pharmaceutical business’ friendly environment, where even a slight improvement in the prevailing IPR conditions will give a significant boost to their business performance.

IMS forecasts that by 2013 China is going to be the third largest pharmaceutical market in the world with an estimated turnover of US $66.7 billion against 13 ranking of India in the same league table, with an estimated turnover of US $15.5 billion.

Similar trend was observed in the immediate past, as well. As reported by IMS MAT September 2009, China registered a turnover of US $24 billion with 27.1% growth against US $7.7 billion with 12.9% growth of India, during the same period. IMS, based on their research data forecasts that during 2008-13 period, China will contribute 36% of the growth of the Asia Pacific Region, against 12% of India.

Under this situation, it appears quite prudent for the ‘innovative pharmaceutical companies’ to send signals to the Chinese Government that they are contributing to the ‘Economic Progress’ of the nation by making significant direct investments, obviously with an expectation to get more business friendly environment in that country.

Recent ‘Healthcare Reform’ in China has further improved its market attractiveness.

Thus the business attractiveness of China as a pharmaceutical market scores much higher than India, fetching more FDIs for them, prevailing IPR environment and PWL status in the ‘Special 301 Reports’ for the country not withstanding.


Overall IPR environment in India, many experts strongly believe, does not seem to be much different from China, if not a shade better. While interacting with Chinese experts recently in that part of the world, I understand, ‘Data Protection’ is just ‘on paper’ in China, causing a huge issue for the innovator companies in that country. Similar situation prevails so far as the effectiveness of patent enforcement mechanism is concerned, where innovator companies are fighting and required to fight such infringement cases in the provincial level and in so many provinces of the country, posing a huge challenge to the patent holders.

So far as PWL status in ‘Special 301 Reports’ is concerned, it seems to have almost lost its relevance, as both India and China become stronger economies with increasing global dependence on them, consistently registering double digit or near double digit GDP growth.

In china, the pharmaceutical market attractiveness, its size and growth are driven by two key factors as mentioned above, viz, huge domestic market access/ penetration and better affordability of medicines through various effective medicine price re-imbursement schemes, across the country. The recent ‘Healthcare Reform’ of the country has added further momentum to this progress.

So long as India does not take robust policy measures, followed by their effective implementation to address, much ignored, the access and affordability issues of medicines for the common man, the country will continue to be a laggard, compared to China in the race of market leadership within the global pharmaceutical industry.

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.