Public Healthcare Space: Evaluating Three Fresh Edicts

Medicines constitute a significant cost component of modern healthcare systems across the world. However, in India the situation is even worse, where as per recent studies, drugs contribute as high as around 70 percent of the total treatment cost. This is mainly because overall healthcare system in the country is fundamentally different not just from the developed world, but also from many other developing countries like, China, Brazil, South Africa and Thailand, to name a few.

In most of those countries significant expenses towards healthcare including medicines are reimbursed either by the Governments or through health insurance or similar mechanisms. However, the Indian situation is just the reverse, where around 72 percent of overall healthcare costs, including medicines, are private or Out of Pocket (OoP), incurred by the individuals/families.

According to a recent report, ‘about 38 million people in India (which is more than Canada’s population) fall below the poverty line every year due to healthcare expenses, of which 70% is on purchase of drugs’, as stated above.

In this context, it is worth noting that for patented drugs, the Drug Policy of December 2012 clearly articulates that Government of India will follow the approach of price negotiation with the respective companies. Unfortunately, work done in this so important area by the concerned authority, so far, has been rather superficial, if not shoddy. Most of the patented products, which are prohibitively expensive, continue to remain out of reach of a vast majority of patients in india.

Expenditure towards healthcare – a fundamental need:

Expenditure towards healthcare in India, which is largely private, highly exploitative and thus expensive, is absolutely essential for all, either to be able to earn a living for a family or for maintaining a reasonable quality of life.

According to an ‘Access Survey’ conducted by IMS Consulting Group in 2012, ‘Out Patient (OP)’ treatment costs in private care is ~2-3 times that of public and in case of ‘In-Patient (IP)’ care it is ~4-8 times the cost of Public care.

Focus has not been just enough:

Since 1970, the Government of India and various States have been adopting  measures including, National Health Mission (NHM), Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), Drug Price Control Order (DPCO), besides others, to make healthcare in general and medicines in particular affordable and accessible to the common man. However, these measures though essential, have not delivered quite well when measured against the set objectives. This keeps on happening, due to lack of accountability and inefficient Government control over the processes involved together with fast increasing exploitative mindset in the private healthcare space, over the last several decades.

Health being a State subject inequity in access:

Health being a State subject in India, there has been large variations in public healthcare spend within various States of the country. Some of the poorer States have low  per capita public healthcare expenditure and some of the richer states incur significantly more, leading to huge inequity of access, especially among the poorer sections of the society. (Source: IMS Consulting 2012)

Three fresh edicts:

In the above backdrop, the decision of the Government of India to increase the National Health Expenditure Budget from 1.2% to 2.5% of GDP in the 12th Five Year Plan of India in 2012 has the potential to be a game changer in the public healthcare space of India.

It is envisaged that this decent increase in the budgetary allocation will help initiating the process of Universal Health Care (UHC) to ensure free 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.

Probably as a precursor to UHC, the Government of India has announced three fresh edicts:

1. Budgetary clearance for ‘Free distribution of essential medicines’ by the States

2. Notification for operationalizing the new ‘Central Medical Services Society (CMSS)’ to streamline the drug procurement system 

3. Announcement for implementation of ‘Standard Treatment Guidelines (STGs)’ 

The above edicts are indeed laudatory, as these measures, if taken effectively in tandem would also help maximizing overall productivity of the public healthcare delivery systems, immensely.  This is expected mainly because, the process would require avoidance of unnecessary medicines and diagnostics tests, chain of multiple doctor visits starting from GPs, specialists to super specialists, besides simultaneous re-engineering of below par public healthcare delivery systems of the country.

1. Budgetary clearance for free distribution of essential medicines by the States:

Late 2012, the Union Government made its first major move by formally clearing Rs. 13,000 Crore  (around US$ 2.2 billion) towards providing free medicines for all through government hospitals and health centers. The State Governments under National Health Mission to utilize this fund for purchase and free distribution of essential medicines. Some State Governments are already in the process of implementing this scheme, though effective implementation of the same, across the country, still remains a challenge.

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 at this stage.

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 could continue to grow simultaneously.

That said procedural delays and drug quality issues, while procuring cheaper generics, might 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.

POTENTIALITY: Significant increase in access to medicines and simultaneous sharp reduction on OoP expenses.

2. Operationalization of CMSS for drug procurement:

Recently this year, the Union Health Ministry issuing the final notification reportedly has made the drug procurement system through Central Medical Services Society (CMSS) formally operational.

The drug procurement for different flagship program, of the Government like National Health Mission, will now be done through the CMSS.

The notification says:

  • The CMSS will be responsible for procuring health sector goods in a transparent and cost-effective manner and distributing them to the States/UTs by setting up an IT enabled supply chain infrastructure including warehouses in 50 locations.
  • The main objective of CMSS is to ensure uninterrupted supply of health-sector goods to the state Government, which will then maintain the flow to the govt. health facilities such as district hospitals, primary health centers and community health centers.
  • All decisions on procurement will be taken by the CMSS without any reference to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The Ministry will be responsible only for policy decisions concerning procurement and for monitoring its performance.
  • The CMSS will also assist the state governments to set up similar organizations in states to reform their procurement.
  • The Government has appointed the Director General and other key persons to run the organization, which will look to eliminate deficiencies in the existing system of purchasing medicines, vaccines, contraceptives and medical equipment for all government’s flagship program.
  • At present, the ministry procures drugs departmentally and through agents, drawing flaks and raking controversies at regular intervals.

This seemingly transparent drug procurement process for public use, would prompt tough price negotiations with the manufacturers for purchase of medicines leading to significant reduction in drug prices, as evidenced already in the States like, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.

POTENTIALITY: Significant reduction in public healthcare costs, especially for medicines.

3. Announcement for implementation of Standard Treatment Guidelines (STGs):

Another recent news that Standard Treatment Guidelines (STGs) for 20 disciplines will soon be put in place in India is indeed a breath of fresh air. The centers of excellence for healthcare, both public and private, for around 1.2 billion population of the country, are still rather limited.

STG is usually defined as a systematically developed statement designed to assist practitioners and patients in making decisions about appropriate cost-effective treatment for specific disease areas.

For each disease area, the treatment should include “the name, dosage form, strength, average dose (pediatric and adult), number of doses per day, and number of days of treatment. STG also includes specific referral criteria from a lower to a higher level of the diagnostic and treatment requirements.

For an emerging economy, like India, formulation of STGs would ensure cost-effective healthcare benefits to a vast majority of its population.

STGs, therefore, will provide:

- Standardized guidance to practitioners

- Cost-effective ‘health outcomes’ based services

The Ministry of Health is now reportedly mulling to streamline in a phased manner the disease treatment procedures and protocols by introducing STGs in 20 disciplines under the ‘Clinical Establishments Act’ of the country. These disciplines are Cardiovascular, Endocrinology, ENT, Gastroenterology, General Surgery, Interventional Radiology, Laboratory Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Organ Transplant, Pediatrics, Oncology, Urology, Nephrology, GI Surgery, Medicine Respiratory, Medicine Non-Respiratory, Critical Care, Ophthalmology, Neurology and Orthopedics.

The National Council for Clinical Establishments (NCCE) is the apex body under the Clinical Establishments Act. STGs, therefore, will be binding on all hospitals and establishments registered under the Clinical Establishments Act 2010.

The Council has already deliberated on the draft STGs prepared by the experts in the respective disciplines of medicines. Surgical intervention in cardiovascular diseases reportedly will assume priority while implementing the STGs.

It is expected that the first of the STGs will be announced soon.

Currently only Uttar Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand, apart from all Union Territories, have adopted the Act. Again, health being a State subject in India, all the States of the country will need to enforce this Act to make the initiative successful. However, states like West Bengal have their own Clinical Establishment Act, while Tamil Nadu has its own STGs.

Incidentally, putting STGs in place has been one of the long-standing demands of many, including the medical insurance companies. This is mainly because, laid-down protocols will make the hospitals avoiding unnecessary procedures on insured patients, thereby reducing the cost of treatment significantly.

POTENTIALITY: Huge reduction in healthcare cost, avoiding wastage in every step of any disease treatment. This could also help the medical insurance companies containing hospitalization costs, hopefully leading to reduced insurance premium.


All these three edicts of the Government, do promise a huge potential to help containing the overall cost of treatment in general and the costs of medicines in particular.

Effective implementation of these important initiatives would call for a significant change in mindset of all concerned. Doctors, hopefully, would also avoid using those expensive drugs having no significant improvement in ‘health outcomes’ over the cheaper alternatives.

STGs would initially need to be encouraged not just through self-regulation of the medical profession, but by the pharmaceutical industry and other allied interested parties in this area, as well. If ‘self-regulation’ does not work, stringent regulatory measures must be enforced by the Government to protect patients’ health interest.

No doubt both the Union and the State Governments of India would still have lot to chew in pursuit of ensuring affordable healthcare in general and medicines in particular, to all.

That said, would expectations of crafty implementation of these edicts, at least, flicker a ray of hope in an otherwise gloomy and exploitative overall healthcare environment of 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.

The Concept of Orphan Drugs for Orphan Diseases is Orphan in India

Though the percentage of patients suffering from ‘Rare Diseases’ in India is reportedly higher than the  world average, unfortunately even today such cases get little help from our government.

According to experts, diseases manifesting patients representing maximum 6 to 8 percent of the world population are defined as ‘Rare Diseases’ and most of such diseases being ‘Orphaned’ by the global pharmaceutical industry, mainly because of commercial considerations, are termed as ‘Orphan Diseases’. Consequently when any drug is developed specifically to treat an ‘Orphan or a Rare Disease’ condition is called an ‘Orphan Drug’.

According to SanOrphan SA, Geneva, Switzerland, around 65 percent of rare diseases are serious and disabling. More interestingly, about 250 new rare diseases are discovered each year, corresponding to five new rare diseases per week.

However, without appropriate ecosystem being in place, developing a new drug (Orphan Drug) specifically to treat a very small number of patient populations suffering from any particular type of rare disease through highly cost intensive R&D initiatives, generating a low return on investments, has been extremely challenging for any pharmaceutical company.

The challenge and the need:

Public awareness drives for ‘Orphan Diseases’ first originated in the USA with the formation of a rare disease support group representing around 200,000 patients suffering from such ailments.

However, very limited market especially for those ‘Orphan Drugs’ , which are meant for the treatment of a single rare disease, has been discouraging the large pharmaceutical players to make major R&D investments for such molecules, as mentioned above.

In response to the public awareness campaigns and at the same time understanding the commercial imperatives of the pharmaceutical companies in developing “Orphan Drugs’, a path breaking legislation was formulated by the U.S government way back in 1983, known as ‘Orphan Drugs Act (ODA)’. The key purpose of ODA was to incentivize R&D initiatives for such drugs to treat around 25 million Americans suffering from ‘Orphan Diseases’.

Though similar legal and policy interventions are of utmost importance to allay the sufferings of millions of patients fighting rare diseases in India, precious little has been initiated in this direction by the government, thus far.

Orphan Drugs in the USA:

U.S Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA) provides orphan status to drugs and biologics which are defined as:

  • Those intended for the safe and effective treatment, diagnosis or prevention of rare diseases/disorders that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S.
  • Or, those affect more than 200,000 persons but are not expected to recover the costs of developing and marketing a treatment drug.

India perspective:

For the first time in India, to increase awareness for the rare diseases, Rare Diseases Day was observed in New Delhi on February 28, 2010. Subsequently 2nd and the 3rd ‘Rare Disease Days’ were observed in Chennai and Mumbai in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

About 6000 to 8000 rare diseases, mostly genetic in nature have been identified in India. It was initially estimated that over 31 million Indians are suffering from rare diseases in the country, many of these diseases still do not have any cure.

However, The Hindu in April 2012 reported, “Taking the lower limit of global prevalence estimate, populous nations like India and China should have more than 70 million rare disease cases each.”

Inaction in India:  

The report further highlights that enough awareness has still not been created in India to address this challenge, despite publication of several rare disease case reports in the peer reviewed journals and existence of a number of support groups, though with inadequate resources.

Use of ‘Social Media’ to increase awareness:

Even in the developed markets, leave aside India, it is still hard to get required health related information for individuals suffering from rare diseases. In many countries, finding no better alternatives, such patients decide to be virtual experts on the diseases they are suffering from, making full use of social media, like Facebook.

Interaction through social media often makes it easier for such patients not only to find each other, but also to share expertise and experience eventually to get proper medical care with affordable drugs.

‘Orphan Drugs Act’ must come with adequate incentives:

ODA, when enacted in India, should not be a half-hearted approach or be a zero-sum game for all. It should come with adequate financial and other incentives to create a sound business sense in this new ball game for the pharmaceutical players in India.

Just for example, the incentives of the ODA in the U.S include:

  • Funding towards investigation for “Orphan Disease’ treatment
  • Tax credit for Clinical Research
  • Waiver of fees for New Drug Application (NDA)
  • Offering more lucrative incentive than product patent (product patent requires the drug to be novel), as the orphan designation of the product by the US FDA and product approval by them are the only requirements for 7 year market exclusivity of an ‘Orphan Drug’ for the specified indication
  • Market exclusivity of ‘Orphan Drugs’ become effective from the date of regulatory approval, unlike product patent, product development time remains outside this period
  • The drugs, which are not eligible for product patent, may be eligible for market exclusivity as an ‘Orphan Drug’ by the US-FDA

Proof of the pudding is in the eating:

Thanks to this Act, currently around 230 ‘Orphan Drugs’ are available in the U.S for the treatment of around 11 million patients suffering from rare diseases. With the help of ‘Human Genome Project’ more orphan diseases are expected to be identified and newer drugs will be required to treat these rare ailments of human population.

‘Orphan Drugs Act’ encourages ‘Orphan Drugs’ development:

It is now a reasonably well accepted fact that ‘Orphan Drugs Act’ encourages ‘Orphan Drugs’ development.

In an article titled, “What the Orphan Drug Act has done lately for children with rare diseases: a 10-year analysis”, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), U.S, National Library of Medicine, the authors articulated that in the U.S. 1138 orphan drugs were designated and 148 received marketing approval, of which 38 (26%) were for pediatric diseases, from 2000 to 2009. The percentage of approvals for pediatric products increased from 17.5 (10 of 57) in the first half of the decade, as compared to 30.8 (28 of 91) in the second half.

Based on the data the paper concluded that incentives provided in the ‘Orphan Drugs Act (ODA)’ of the United States of America, have led to increased availability of specific drugs for the treatment of ‘Rare Diseases’ in the country.

Others followed… but when will India…?

As stated above, 1983 signaled the importance of ‘Orphan Drugs’ with the ‘Orphan Drugs Act (ODA) in the U.S. A decade after, in 1993, Japan took similar initiative followed by Australia in 1999. Currently, Singapore, South Korea, Canada and New Zealand are also having their country specific ODAs.

Following similar footsteps, India should also encourage its domestic pharmaceutical industry to get engaged in research to discover drugs for rare diseases by putting an ‘Orphan Drugs Act’ in place, extending financial support, tax exemptions and regulatory concessions like smaller and shorter clinical trials, without further delay.

Every day millions of Indians will continue to suffer from ‘Orphan Diseases’ without affordable treatment, in the absence of an appropriate policy framework in the country for ‘Orphan Drugs’.

Another vindication of the argument:

It is worth repeating that an ODA with proper incentives has been the key motivating factor for the development of many drugs and treatment for a large number of rare diseases, since 1983.

Looking at the increasing number of approvals, it appears that CAGR of ‘Orphan Drugs’ will now be far greater than other drugs. Even in 2011 as many as 11 ‘Orphan Drugs’ have been approved by the US-FDA, as stated below:

Company Brand Name Generic Name Type of Approval Indication Month in 2011
Bristol-Myers Squibb YERVOY Ipilimumab New biologic licence application Metastatic Melanoma March
IPR Pharmaceuticals CAPRELSA Vandetanib New molecular entity Advance medullary thyroid cancer April
Bristol-Myers Squibb NULOJIX Belatacept New biologic licence application Prevent organ transplant rejection June
Seattle generics ADCETRIS Brentuximab vedotin New biologic licence application Hodgkin lymphoma and systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma August
Roche ZELBORAF Vemurafenib New molecular entity Metastatic melanoma August
Shire FIRAZYR Icatibant acetate New molecular entity Hereditary angioedema August
Pfizer XALKORI Crizotinib New molecular entity Late stage lung cancer August
ApoPharma FERRIPROX Deferiprone New molecular entity Thalassemia October
Lundbeck ONFI Clobazam New molecular entity Seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome October
Incite JAKAFI Ruxolitinib New molecular entity Myelofibrosis November
EUSA Pharma ERWINAZE Asparaginase Erwinia chrysanthemi New biologic licence application Acute lymphoblastic leukemia November

(Source: Ernst & Young, FDA and company website. 2012)

The above facts, once again, vindicate the argument that the ODA of the kind of the U.S, broadly speaking, is worth emulating by India with appropriate modifications as relevant to the country.

The global Market:

A new report from Thomson Reuters indicate that the global market for ‘Orphan Drugs’ was over US$50 billion in 2011.

It has also been reported that ‘Orphan Drugs’ contribute 6 percent of US$ 880 billion global pharmaceutical market with a CAGR of 25.8 percent as compared to 20.1 percent for ‘Non-Orphan Drugs’ during 2001 to 2010 period.

High price of ‘Orphan Drugs’ is an issue:

The most challenging part in the fight against ‘Orphan Diseases’ is access to an affordable treatment, especially to affordable ‘Orphan Drugs’.

For obvious reasons, the prices of ‘Orphan Drugs’ are usually very high, some even costs as high as US$ 400,000 annually and thus beyond affordability of many who are outside the purview of any drug price reimbursement scheme.

Most of such drugs are rarely available in India and there is no reasonably affordable ‘rupee’ price for these drugs. Indian patients suffering from rare diseases will currently have no other alternative but to import these drugs directly in US$ term, unless Indian policy makers wake-up some day and take appropriate measures in this important area.

Additional commercial opportunities could be available with appropriate ODA:

Thomson Reuters reported additional commercial opportunities with an appropriate ODA, which are as follows:

  • 15 percent of the ‘Orphan Drugs’ analyzed by them had subsequent launches for other rare illnesses.
  • 6 out of the top 10 ‘Orphan Drugs’ had more than one rare disease indication with an average peak sales of US$ 34.3 billion in overall sales potential against around US$ 8.1 billion of the same for drugs with single indication.
  • Time taken for Clinical Trials (CT) focused on orphan drugs is significantly shorter with a quicker review time than trials involving non-orphan drugs.


It is interesting to note that some of the ‘Orphan Diseases’ are now being diagnosed also in India. As the nation takes rapid strides in the medical science, more of such ‘Orphan Diseases’ are likely to be diagnosed in our country. Thus the moot question is how does India address this pressing issue with pro-active measures, now?

One of the ways to properly address this issue in India could well be to follow the model of our very own the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for an ‘Open Source Drug Discovery’ (OSDD) program with global partnerships, wherever necessary.

Thus in my view, with an appropriate ODA in place, leveraging the knowledge of OSDD acquired by CSIR and framing a robust win-win Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to discover and commercialize the ‘Orphan Drugs’, India could well demonstrate that the concept of Orphan Drugs for Orphan Diseases is really not Orphan in India.

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 ruckus over Clinical Trials in India compels Government tightening regulations before flooring gas pedal for regional leadership

The subject of Clinical Trials in India has created a huge ruckus, mainly for wide spread alleged malpractices, abuse and misuse of the fragile regulations of the country by the players in this field. The issue is not just of GCP or other clinical trial related standards but more of ethical mind-set and reported rampant exploitation of uninformed patients even in case of trial related injuries or death.

The Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) in an article titled, “Clinical trials in India: ethical concerns” reported as follows:

“Drug companies are drawn to India for several reasons, including a technically competent workforce, patient availability, low costs and a friendly drug-control system. While good news for India’s economy, the booming clinical trial industry is raising concerns because of a lack of regulation of private trials and the uneven application of requirements for informed consent and proper ethics review.”

Damning report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee:

Recently the Department Related ‘Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC)’ on Health and Family Welfare presented its 59th Report of 118 pages in total on the functioning of the Indian Drug Regulator – the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) in both the houses of the Parliament on May 08, 2012.

The report begins with the following observations:

Medicines apart from their critical role in alleviating human suffering and saving lives have very sensitive and typical dimensions for a variety of reasons. They are the only commodity for which the consumers have neither a role to play nor are they able to make any informed choices except to buy and consume whatever is prescribed or dispensed to them because of the following reasons:

  • Drug regulators decide which medicines can be marketed
  • Pharmaceutical companies either produce or import drugs that they can profitably sell
  • Doctors decide which drugs and brands to prescribe
  • Consumers are totally dependent on and at the mercy of external entities to protect their interests.

In this prevailing condition, the committee felt that effective and transparent drug regulation, free from all commercial influences, is absolutely essential to ensure safety, efficacy and quality of drugs keeping just one objective in mind, i.e., welfare of patients.

Some critical findings on the Drug Approval Process:

The PSC in its report made, the following critical findings, besides others:

  • “A total of 31 new drugs were approved in the period January 2008 to October 2010 without conducting clinical trials on Indian patients.
  • Thirteen drugs scrutinized by the panel are not allowed to be sold in the United States, Canada, Britain, European Union and Australia.
  • Sufficient evidence is available on record to conclude that there is collusive nexus between drug manufacturers, some functionaries of CDSCO and some medical experts.
  • Due to the sensitive nature of clinical trials in which foreign companies are involved in a big way and a wide spectrum of ethical issues and legal angles, different aspects of clinical trials need a thorough and in-depth review.”

Proper Auditing of Clinical Trials are lacking:

It is sad that that adequate focus on the ‘Clinical Trial Registry’ and even ‘Auditing of Clinical Trials’ is currently lacking in India, which are considered so important not only to maintain the credibility of the studies, but also to demonstrate their scientific integrity and ethical values.

Unfortunately, there seems to be many loose knots in the current clinical trial policy, practices and guidelines in the country, which require to be tightened by the Government to make the system efficient and transparent in the national endeavor of establishing India as one of the most favored destinations for global clinical trials.

Health Ministry recently responded:

Facing this stark reality and pressured by the Parliament, the government has recently demonstrated its intention of tightening the loose knots in the following two critical areas:

  1. Permission to conduct Clinical Trial
  2. Compensation of the Clinical Trial victims

A. “Permission to conduct Clinical Trial in India’ – the draft notification:

In response to the prevailing conundrum, ‘The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’ of the Government of India issued a draft notification on 17th July, 2012 seeking stakeholders’ views on the ‘Permission to conduct Clinical Trial’.

The draft notification says that the licensing authority after being satisfied with the adequacy of the data submitted by the applicant in support of proposed clinical trial, shall issue permission to conduct clinical trial, subject to the following conditions:

  1. Clinical trial shall be conducted in compliance to the approved GCP Guidelines.
  2. Approval of the ‘Ethics Committee’ shall be obtained before initiation of the study.
  3. Ethical aspects of the clinical trial as described in the “Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research on Human Participants” published by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), shall be fully complied with.
  4. Clinical trial shall be registered at Clinical Trials Registry of India (CTRI) before enrolling the first patient in the study.
  5. Annual status report on clinical trial viz. ongoing or completed to be communicated to the said Licensing Authority.
  6. Any ‘Suspected Unexpected Serious Adverse Reaction (SUSAR)’ occurring during clinical trial shall be communicated within fourteen calendar days to the Licensing Authority and to the other investigator(s) participating in the study.
  7. In case of study related injury or death, the applicant will provide complete medical care, as well as, compensation for the injury or death and statement to this effect shall be incorporated in the Informed Consent Document. The details of compensation provided shall also be intimated to the licensing authority.
  8. The premises of sponsor/Clinical Research Organization (CRO) and clinical trial sites shall be open to inspection by the officer of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), who may be accompanied by an officer of the concerned ‘State Drug Control Authority’ to verify compliance to the requirements of Schedule Y, GCP guidelines and other applicable regulation.
  9. The sponsor/ CRO, investigators shall allow officers of CDSCO who may be accompanied by an officer of the concerned ‘State Drug Control Authority’, to enter with or without prior notice, any premises of sponsor/ CRO, clinical trial site to inspect, search and seize any record, data, document, books, investigational drugs etc. related to clinical trials and provide adequate replies to any queries raised by the inspecting authority in relation to the conduct of clinical trial.

This area of the clinical trial regulations will be finalized after taking into consideration of all the comments received from the stakeholders within the specified period.

B. ‘Compensation of the Clinical Trial victims’:

To address the pressing issues in this area Central Drugs Control Organization (CDSCO) in August 3, 2012, published an interim “GUIDELINES FOR DETERMINING QUANTUM OF FINANCIAL COMPENSATION TO BE PAID IN CASE OF CLINICAL TRIAL RELATED INJURY OR DEATH”

The document articulates as follows:

Presently there is no specific provision under Drugs and Cosmetics Rules for payment of compensation in case of clinical trial related injury or death of the subject. However, the Good Clinical Practice (GCP) Guidelines for Clinical Trials of India under para 2.4.7 provides that the research subject who suffers physical injury as a result of their participation in clinical trials are entitled to financial or other assistance to compensate them equitably for any temporary or permanent impairment or disability subject to confirmation from Ethics Committee. In case of death, their dependents are entitled to material compensation. Guidelines further provide that it is the obligation of the sponsor to pay the compensation.

Such concerns were also raised in the Parliament and other forums regarding payment of compensation in the cases of injury or death, related to clinical trials.

CDSCO’s interim guidelines now prescribe an interesting formula, which will be used to arrive at the financial compensation for all clinical trial related injuries and deaths.

To assess right compensation for clinical trial related injuries or deaths following parameters have been mooted in the document:

  • Age of the deceased
  • Income of the deceased
  • Seriousness and severity of the disease, the subject was suffering at the time of his/her participation into the trial.
  • Percentage of permanent disability.

Prior to the above new interim guidelines of the CDSCO, there was no standardization for the financial compensation either for clinical trial injuries or for that matter even death. In the past, such compensation was expected to be decided by the ‘Ethics Committee’ on case to case basis.

As stated above, the above formula has been indicated to be an interim measure before the final notification comes into force after taking into consideration all stakeholders’ comments and suggestions on this very important subject.

Drawing a comparison with China:

Driven by the stellar economic growth together with its booming pharmaceutical industry have enabled China to position itself as an emerging hub for global clinical trials. Following are some examples of the key growth drivers in the clinical research space of China:

  • A large diverse treatment naive patient population
  • Significant cost arbitrage
  • Recent improvements in the regulatory standards
  • Reverse brain drain of Chinese-born scientists educated in the west
  • Changing disease profile
  • Incentives to conduct clinical research in the country

However, linguistic and cultural barriers that affect patient reporting, enrollment and other medical practices in China could work as major barriers to the growth of Chinese clinical trial sector.

Clinical Trials: A ‘China – India’ comparison

It has already been reported  that India is ahead of China as most favored destination for global clinical trials, although the latter is quite close and breathing on the neck of India and could well even zoom past the former, if appropriate robust regulations and their effective implementation are still not ensured in India.

I. Majority of the Top 10 Pharma Companies conduct higher number of trials in India

Sr. No. Company

Clinical Trials in India

Clinical Trials in China

Astra Zeneca








Eli Lilly


































(Source:, 26 Oct 2007)

II. India leads China and Russia in Cardiology and Diabetes trials

Therapy India (%) China (%) Russia (%)
Cardiology 5.38 4.93 4.48
Diabetes 3.05 2.09 2.65
Neurology 0.90 0.90 3.62
Oncology 1.59 1.01 2.32

With the highest number of diabetic patients in the World and a very large population of patients with cardiovascular disorders, India has the potential to be the destination of choice for clinical trials in these two therapy areas, as we move on.

(Source:, 26 Oct 2007)

III. India has a greater % of phase II and III trials while China has more of Phase I and IV

Clinical Trials in India

Clinical Trials in China

Phase I


Phase I


Phase II


Phase II


Phase III


Phase II


Phase IV


Phase IV


(Source:, 26 Oct 2007)

IV. Of the total Industry sponsored trials only 3.5% are carried out in India and 2.63% in China


Global Trials

India + China







Eli Lilly




























India 3.50%
China 2.63%
Global 93.87%

India and China’s share in the Industry sponsored Global clinical trial market is miniscule


Overall increasing trend of Clinical Trials Initiated in India:

The following table will substantiate the above point:


No. Of Clinical Trials























(Source: U.S. NIH, Pharmexcil Research)

India has the potential to accelerate its pace of growth significantly:

If robust regulatory measures are put in place, addressing serious concerns on the inadequacy of clinical trial regulations in India, together with uniform requirements for informed patients’ consent and appropriate ethics review, global pharmaceutical majors can be easily attracted to India for several reasons like:

  1. Technically competent and English speaking workforce,
  2. Patient availability and huge pool of naive patients
  3. Low costs and an improving drug-control system.

Thus, quite a number of criteria, as stated above, favor India to establish itself as a global hub for clinical research. Besides, availability of a number of government-funded medical and pharmaceutical institutions with state-of-the-art facilities could be very useful for mufti-centered clinical trials in the country.

Moreover, the cost to conduct a trial in India is lower by almost 50% – 75% than in the United States or in the EU. In addition, a good communication link favors quick recruitment of patients and faster regulatory approvals. Thus, clinical trials in India could be concluded faster, offering a sharp cutting edge for effective competition.

Due to all these reasons, India is gradually attracting more collaborative contract clinical research proposals in the country. Even many global Clinical Research Organizations (CRO) have already started establishing their set up in India. This pace can be accelerated significantly with the regulatory measures, as stated above.


Clinical trials are the core of research-based pharmaceutical industry. No new drug can come into the market without clinical trials, which involve both potential benefits and risks to the participants. All clinical trials are conducted with the primary aim of bringing to patients new medicines with a favorable benefit–risk ratio.

Global clinical trials being relatively new to India, no wonder there are several misconceptions on the subject. The companies conducting research need to proactively publicize their commitment to protecting the rights, safety and well-being of trial participants.

All concerned must ensure that the proposals for clinical trials are approved by the government regulatory authorities before commencement and the trials must strictly follow the prescribed norms and procedures. For Phase I-IV human trials, the rights and privileges of the participants must be explained and the trials should commence only after their informed consent. The regulatory authorities, at the same time, should also ensure that any attempt of shortcuts or to bend the system by any means is met with severe consequences.

Although the Ministry of Health has already started initiating some action, as stated above, there is an urgent need for the players in this field to reassure the public, in general, about the high ethical standards that the pharmaceutical companies and Clinical Research Organizations require to comply with and continuously practice, while conducting clinical research.

It is therefore, high time for the Government to tighten the loose knots of the Clinical Trial regulations in the country before flooring the gas pedal to help India surging ahead as a major hub in the clinical trials space of the world, significantly distancing itself from China.

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.

‘Free Essential Medicines for All’ – A Laudable Public Healthcare Initiative of India, Tough Challenges Notwithstanding

Recently the Government of India has taken 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 is expected to roll out, as reported in the media, from October/November this year 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 benefit, especially the poorer patients, significantly.

Recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee:

Noting the keen interest of the Government for speedier implementation of this scheme, it appears that the Ministry of Health has accepted the recommendations made by the ‘Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) for Health and Family Welfare’ to the Indian Parliament on August 4, 2010, regarding prescription of medicines by their generic names in the Public hospitals and dispensaries, to start with.

In this context, it is worth noting that the ‘Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB)’ has also reportedly considered the proposal to amend the rules of the ‘Drugs and Cosmetics Act of India’ for regulatory approval of all drug formulations containing single active ingredient in the generic names by all State Licensing Authorities.

This recommendation of the  PSC is based on the premises that the ‘Brand Building’ exercise of the generic drugs includes a very high sales and marketing expenditure.

The Committee felt that by putting in place a well structured policy such ‘avoidable’ expenditures can easily be eliminated making generic medicines available to the common man at much cheaper prices. ‘Jan Aushadhi’ scheme of the Government is often cited as an example to drive home this point.

The scheme is new for India, but other countries have already taken similar steps:

Just to cite an example, as reported by ‘The Guardian” on August 23, 2011, the Spanish government recently enacted a law compelling the doctors in Spain to prescribe generic drugs instead of more expensive patented and branded pharmaceuticals, wherever available. This move is expected to help the Spanish government to save €2.4 billion (£2.1billion) a year, as in Spain the drug costs are partly reimbursed by the government.

As a result, the doctors in Spain require prescribing only in the generic or chemical names of such drugs. Consequently the pharmacies will be obliged to dispense ‘the cheapest available versions of drugs, which will frequently mean not the better-known brand names sold by the big drugs firms’.

Product quality of generic/ generics and branded generics:

Drugs and Cosmetics Act of India requires all generic/generic and branded generic drugs to have the same quality and performance standards. Thus when a generic/generic medicine is approved by the drug regulator, one should logically expect that it has met with the required standards set for the identity, strength, quality, purity and potency of the chemical substance.

It is not uncommon that there could be some variability taking place during their manufacturing process and all formulations of both the categories produced by different manufacturers may not also contain exactly the same inactive ingredients.

In any case, both generic/generic and branded generic drugs must be shown to be bio-equivalent to the reference drugs with similar blood levels to the respective reference products. Regulators even in the USA believe that if blood levels are the same, the therapeutic effect will also be the same.

A recent study:

As reported by the US FDA, “A recent study evaluated the results of 38 published clinical trials that compared cardiovascular generic drugs to their brand-name counterparts. There was no evidence that brand-name heart drugs worked any better than generic heart drugs. [Kesselheim et al. Clinical equivalence of generic and brand-name drugs used in cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2008;300(21)2514-2526]”.

Generic drugs are prescribed more, even in America:

As per published reports, generic medicines account for around 78% of the total prescriptions dispensed by retail chemists and long-term care facilities in the US. For example, in 2010 generic prescriptions were four percentage points more than what these were in 2009 and came up from 63% as recorded in 2006.

Capacity constraints could hold back full implementation of the Indian initiative:

Huge shortages in the number doctors, nurses, paramedics and hospital beds per 10,000 population in India will pose a tough challenge for speedier implementation of ‘Free medicines for all’ project in the country. India should respond to its healthcare infrastructure developmental needs much faster now than ever before to achieve its objective of providing ‘healthcare to all’, sooner.

Overall impact of the scheme:

I reckon, this new scheme will 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.

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, because of the reasons as mentioned above.

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.

How long will it take?

Full implementation of ‘Universal healthcare’ projects takes considerable time in any country. China has taken a long time for its roll-out covering even a larger population than India. Even Mexico has reportedly taken more than seven years for implementation of similar public healthcare initiative.

Thus, I guess, though it is quite possible for India to offer ‘Free Essential Medicines’ to its 1.13 billion people, it may take a decade long efforts for the country to reach out to the entire population.

Are generic/generic drugs really cheaper than their branded generic equivalents?

The recommendation of the ‘Parliamentary Standing Committee for Health and Family Welfare’ on this issue, as stated above, makes sense for India. However, the moot question, which is the basis of choosing generic/generic drugs over their branded generic equivalents, still remains as follows:

“Are the generic/generic drugs really cheaper than their branded generic equivalents in India?”

From the MRPs, as printed on the packs of both branded generic and the generic/generic formulations, it appears that this basic assumption may not hold good universally across the country.

Following examples will vindicate this point:




Batch No.

Price Per Tab.

Telmisartan 40 mg Branded Generic

Telmiline 40 mg

John SmithKline










Brand/ Generic


Batch No.

Price Per Tab.

Rosuvastatin 10 mg Branded Generic







Sharon Bio-Medicines





Brand/ Generic


Batch No.

Price Per Tab.

Cetirizine HCL 10 mg Branded Generic







Ra Biotech

CT 016B




Brand/ Generic


Batch No.

Price Per Tab.

Nimesulide 100 mg Branded Generic












Brand/ Generic


Batch No.

Price Per Tab.

Amlodipine 5 mg Branded Generic

Aginal 5











Brand/ Generic


Batch No.

Price Per Tab.

Ampicillin 500 Branded Generic










As on July 6, 2012

Let me hasten to add, it is quite possible to present another set of examples, which may show that the MRPs of generic/generic drugs are lesser than the comparable branded generics.

However, the bottom-line is, it will not be fair to comment that MRPs of generic/generic drugs, which do not include any expenditure towards ‘brand-building’, are always significantly lesser than their branded generic counterparts as shown above.

Why are MRPs of generic/generics and branded generics not much different?

It is a general perception, as stated above, that ‘Brand Building’ exercise for generic drugs in India includes a very high component of ‘sales and marketing expenditures’ which are built into the price, making MRPs of the branded generic formulations significantly higher than their generic/generic equivalents.

However, it will not be realistic to accept that generic/generic drugs are not promoted at all, in any form, by the concerned manufacturers. The fact is, in case of generic/generic medicines almost the same amount that is spent on ‘sales and marketing’ for branded generic drugs, is passed on to the retail chemists by their manufacturers as huge incentives for promotion and substitution of such drugs by the respective pharmacies.

Thus, in a large number of cases the patients do not get any significant pricing benefit for buying generic/generic drugs against doctors’ prescriptions instead of branded generics from the retail outlets. 


In the prevailing scenario, the decision of the Government to procure and distribute only the generic/generic essential medicines through public hospitals/dispensaries simply on pricing ground, keeping the branded generics at bay, is indeed intriguing.

From the data presented above, it will be quite reasonable to believe that MRPs being similar, the ‘sales and marketing’ costs for branded generics are quite comparable to hefty discounts being passed on to the wholesalers and retail chemists by the manufacturers of generic/generic drugs.

Hence, in the balance of probability, a branded generic product can well compete with its genuine generic/generic equivalent, even on pricing ground, in the government procurement process.

Thus, to be fair to the pharmaceutical companies, across the board, the government should invite all generic manufacturers selling their products with or without brand names to participate in the public procurement process and thereafter make the final purchase decisions based on well laid out and transparent criteria, which can stand scrutiny of the strictest audit. 

That said, I fully recognize that the participation in the public procurement process of essential medicines, will indeed be the business decision of individual  companies. If it makes commercial sense, there is no reason why large companies, including the multinationals, will not participate in this laudable project of the Government.

The record of the Government in the implementation of various social sector projects, thus far, may not be brilliant by any measure. Despite that, it does make enough sense for all of us to be rather optimistic about this well hyped ‘Free Essential Medicines for all’ project of India, considering the immense benefits that the common man will derive out of it.

For the effective implementation of the project, the government should now get adequately prepared with required wherewithal, put in place world class skill-sets by partnering with private domain experts wherever required and chart the pathway of success with clearly assigned accountability to each individual responsible for translating this grand ‘Public Healthcare’ initiative of India into reality .

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.

Chasing the “Holy Grail”: Reasonably affordable healthcare for all

The Healthcare industry of the world as a whole with a size of several trillion US$ is growing at a fast pace in many countries for various reasons. The industry can be broadly divided into six categories as follows:

  1. Managed Health Care, like the US and many other OECD countries providing ‘Universal Health Coverage’
  2. Medical Equipment and Devices
  3. Pharmaceuticals
  4. Bio-pharmaceuticals
  5. Health Insurance
  6. Health Support Services

Though BRIC countries and other emerging markets are showing promising growth potential, United States of America (USA) still remains the largest entity within the global healthcare industry, followed by European Union (EU) and Japan.

Success requirements:

The most important success requirements for the Global healthcare industry may be listed as follows:

  1. Proficiency in early capturing of the key market trends
  2. Leveraging technology in all areas of business
  3. Continuous product and service innovation
  4. Meeting customer needs even before they feel for the same
  5. Cutting-edge, well-differentiated and well-executed market and marketing strategies
  6. Always in touch with customers with win-win business objectives
  7. Outpacing competition with continuous proactive moves


The success factors for excellence in the healthcare sector of India are no different from other emerging markets. However, some key components of this sectoral space, like optimal infrastructure and efficient delivery mechanisms, especially in the hinterland and rural areas of the country, are still in ‘Work In Progress (WIP)’ stages of development.

Healthcare growth drivers in India:

According to the Investment Commission of India, the healthcare sector of the country has registered a robust CAGR of over 12 percent during the last four years and the trend is expected to be ascending further.

Quite in tandem, other important areas of the healthcare sector have also recorded impressive performance as follows:

Areas Growth %
Hospitals/Nursing Homes 20
Medical Equipment 15
Clinical Lab Diagnostics 30
Imaging Diagnostics 30
Other Services (includes Training & Education; Aesthetics & Weight loss; Retail Pharmacy, etc.) 40

In addition, from the allocation made for health (2.5 percent of the GDP) in the 12th Five Year Plan Document of India, it appears that the country will clock a mid to high-teen growth in its healthcare spending during this period, mainly due to the following reasons:

  1. Economy to turn stronger
  2. Massive public healthcare expansion through projects like Universal Health Coverage (UHC), expanded National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), new National Urban Health Mission (NUHM)
  3. Expanded Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojojana (RSBY) for Below Poverty Line (BPL) population
  4. Growing middle income households both in the urban and rural areas
  5. Increasing life-style related health issues
  6. Improving penetration of Health Insurance

Key Challenges:

The path ahead will not really be strewn with the beds of roses. The rural healthcare infrastructure will continue to pose a key challenge, at least in the near term, some of the facts being as follows:

A. Status of Rural Healthcare Infrastructure in India:

Infrastructure and Services Villages [%]
Connected with Roads 73.9
Having any Health Provider 95.3
Having trained birth attendant 37.5
Having ‘Anganwadi’ Worker (Child Care Center in rural areas) 74.5
Having a doctor 43.5

(Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare)

B. Hospital Beds per 1000 of population:

Country Hospital Beds Per 1000 Population
India > 0.7 [Urban: 2.2 and      Rural 0.1]
Russia 9.7
Brazil 2.6
China 2.2
World Average 3.96

(Source: Kshema)

Needs more innovative business models:

Being supported by the monetary and other fiscal incentives of the Government, Tier II and III cities of India will continue to attract more investors for their future growth potential. At the same time, anticipated lower profit margins from these areas, predominantly due to relatively lower affordability threshold of the local population and inadequate health insurance penetration in these areas, is expected to make these healthcare providers to plan for no-frill innovative business models, like much talked about ‘the hub-and-spoke model’, as practiced in many other industries.

Some of the key players of the healthcare industry of India like, Apollo and Fortis have already started expanding into tier-II and tier-III cities of the country, prompted by increasing demand for high-quality specialty healthcare services at reasonably affordable prices in the smaller towns of the country.

Meanwhile, Frontier Lifeline Hospital is reportedly in the process of setting up India’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for healthcare, ‘Frontier Mediville’ at Elavoor, near Chennai.

Areas of caution:

While looking at the big picture, the following factors should also be taken note of:

  • At least in the short to medium term, it will be unrealistic to expect that India will be a high margin / high volume market for the healthcare sector in general.
  • The market will continue to remain within the modest-margin range with marketing excellence driven volume turnover.
  • The government focus on reasonably affordable drug prices may get extended to medical devices / equipment and other related areas, as well.

India is taking strides:

I.   According to the Rural Health Survey Report 2009 of the Ministry of Health and Family

Welfare, in rural India during the last five years:

  • The number of primary health centers has increased by 84 per cent to 20,107.
  • Around 15,000 health sub-centers and 28,000 nurses and midwives have been added.

II   According to RNCOS December, 2010 report:

  • Indian health insurance market is currently not only the fastest growing, but also second largest non-life insurance segment in the country.
  • The health insurance premium in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 25 per cent from 2009-10 to 2013-14.
  • By end 2013 India is expected to curve out a share over 3 per cent in the global medical tourism industry with a CAGR in the number of medical tourists to over 19 per cent, during 2011-2013 period.

III.    According to PwC, the medical technology industry of India is expected to grow from US$

2.7 billion in 2008 to US$ 14 billion by 2020.

IV.    Leveraging cutting edge technology, digital bio-surveillance projects are being initiated to

generate data on the prevalence of various diseases and to create actionable databases on healthcare needs in rural India by several private players like, Narayana Hrudayalaya and the Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre.

V.     Major healthcare players of India like, Manipal Group, Max Healthcare and Apollo are now

reportedly venturing into new segments such as primary care and medical diagnostics.

Job creation 
in healthcare sector:

The trend of new job creation in the healthcare sector of India is also quite encouraging, as supported by the following details:

  • The Healthcare sectors in India recorded a maximum post recession recruitment to a total employee base of 33,66,000 with a new job creation of 2,95,000, according to ‘Ma Foi Employment Trends Survey 2010’.
  • Despite slowdown in other industries, in the healthcare sector the new job creation continues at a faster pace.
  • With many new hospital beds added and increasing access to primary, secondary and tertiary / specialty healthcare, among others, the ascending trend in job creation is expected to continue in the healthcare sector of India in the years ahead.

Pharmaceutical Industry:

McKinsey & Company in its report titled, “India Pharma 2020: Propelling access and acceptance realizing true potential” estimated that the Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM) will grow to US$ 55 billion by 2020 and the market has the potential to record a turnover of US$ 70 billion with a CAGR of 17 per cent.

Currently India:

  • Ranks 4th in the world in terms of pharmaceutical sales volume.
  • Caters to around a quarter of the global requirements for generic drugs.
  • Meets around 70 per cent of the domestic demand for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API).
  • Has the largest number of US FDA approved plant outside USA
  • Files highest number of ANDAs and DMFs
  • One of most preferred global destinations for contract research and manufacturing services (CRAMS)


Despite all these, the healthcare Industry of India is still confronted with many challenges while striking a right balance between public health interest and expectations for a high margin ‘free market’ business policies by a large section of players in the healthcare sector of India, across its sub-sectors, both global and local, quite unlike many other emerging sectors, like telecom and IT.

Moreover, pharmaceuticals come under the ‘Essential Commodities Act’ of the country, where government administered pricing is common.

That said, without further delay, all stakeholders, along with the Government, should now join hands, to collectively resolve the critical issues of the healthcare sector of the nation, like:

  • Creation and modernization of healthcare infrastructure leveraging IT
  • Universal Health Coverage
  • Win-win regulatory policies
  • Creation of employable skilled manpower
  • Innovation friendly ecosystem
  • Reasonably affordable healthcare services and medicines for the common man through a robust government procurement and delivery system
  • Right attitude of all stakeholders to find a win-win solution for all issues, instead of adhering to the age-old blame game in perpetuity, as it were, without conceding each other’s ground even by an inch.

Now is the high time for India, I reckon, to reap a rich harvest from the emerging lucrative opportunities, coming both from India and across the world in its healthcare space. This, in turn, will help the country to effectively align itself with the key global healthcare need of providing reasonably affordable healthcare to all.

In pursuit of this ‘Holy Grail’, the nation has all the success ingredients in its armory, as mentioned above, to play a key role in the global healthcare space, not just as a facilitator to help achieving reasonable corporate business objectives of the healthcare players, but more importantly to alleviate sufferings of a vast majority of the ailing population, living even beyond the shores of India.

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.

Grant of Compulsory License for Bayer’s Nexavar in India raises more questions than answers

On March 12, 2012, the Patent Office of India, 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.


Sorafenib was co-developed and co-marketed by Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals  for the treatment of advanced  renal cell and hepatocellular carcinoma. The drug got its first regulatory approval from the US FDA for advanced renal cell carcinoma in 2005.

National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) of UK had indicated that the drug extends life of the kidney cancer patients by three months on an average.

As stated earlier, in March 2008, Indian patent for Sorafenib was granted to Bayer by the CGPDTM. Thereafter, in December 2010 Natco had requested for a voluntary license from Bayer, which was rejected by the patentee.

It has been reported that sorafenib was registered as an ‘orphan drug’ in the US. The R&D cost of sorafenib was partly subsidized by the US Orphan Drug tax credit.

Mixed reaction:

Though the research based pharmaceutical industry across the world expressed its disappointment over the judgment, many experts and NGOs from different parts of the globe have opined that CGPDTM has set a right precedence by granting a CL for sorafenib, which will ensure, in the times to come, that patent monopolies are kept limited, especially when the patented products are not “reasonably affordable”.

Many people, therefore, envisage that the grant of the first ever CL by the Indian Patent Office could ultimately open the door for other generics players of India to apply for the same on similar grounds and mainly for ‘non-working of patents’, as many patented medicines are now imported into India by the respective global players.

Granting CL should be the last resort:

While none can deny that all citizens of India should have access to innovative and lifesaving medicines, as will be required for their medical treatment, it appears rather impractical to envisage that routine issue of CL by the Indian Patent Office will be able to resolve this critical issue on a long term basis.  Grant of CL, if any, I reckon, should be taken only after exhausting all other access improvement measures.

Working of a patent:

In this particular case, it has been decided by the CGPDTM that working of a patent will require the concerned company to manufacture the drug in India in a reasonable quantity. The argument of the CGPDTM in this respect, many experts believe, is quite a stretch of an interpretation of the statute.

This is mainly because, as one of the signatories of TRIPS, India has a national commitment for adherence to this important international agreement. It is, therefore, widely believed, if importation is not considered as working of patent, the country could expose itself to the risk of  violation of the Article 27.1 of TRIPS, both in letter and spirit.

The Article 27.1 of TRIPS:

The Article 27.1 of TRIPS on ‘local working of patents’ indicates as follows:

“1. Subject to the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3, patents shall be available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application. Subject to paragraph 4 of Article 65, paragraph 8 of Article 70 and paragraph 3 of this Article, patents shall be available and patent rights enjoyable without discrimination as to the place of invention, the field of technology and whether products are imported or locally produced.”

Thus as per Article 27.1 of TRIPS, if commercialization of products patented in India, is done locally either through imports or local manufacturing, should be considered as ‘local working of patents’.

Form 27 vindicates the fact:

Form 27 of the Indian Patents Act, which is a statement regarding the working of patented inventions on commercial scale in India, in its point number 3, under ‘if worked’ states as follows:

“If worked: quantum and value (in Rupees) of the patented product:

  1. Manufactured in India
  2. Imported from other countries (give country-wise details)”

Thus, when Form 27 itself accepts importation as ‘local working of patent’, it is indeed intriguing why was the decision to the contrary taken by the CGPDTM?

Moreover, it is worth noting that the term ‘manufacture in India’ was deleted from the earlier Section 90 (a) of the Patents Act.

A statutory requirement:

CGPDTM through a circular dated December 24, 2009, directed all Patentees and Licensees to furnish information in ‘Form No.27’ on ‘Local Working of Patents’ as prescribed under Section 146 of the Patents Act.

It will be interesting to know, whether CGPDTM in response to Form 27 submissions of Bayer had informed them earlier that the Nexavar Patent has not been worked in India. If not, what is then the sanctity of Form 27 filing?

Delhi High Court Judgment:

Further, it has been well reported that in the legal case of ‘Telemecanique & Controls (I) Limited Vs. Schneider Electric Industries SA 94(2001)DLT865’ on working of patents, the Delhi High Court had concluded that importation would amount to working of Patents.

India specific pricing for innovative drugs is not uncommon:

At this stage, it is worth mentioning that India specific pricing for innovative drugs are not uncommon in the country at all. Following are some good examples:

  • GlaxoSmithKline  Pharmaceuticals has already announced its differential pricing system for India and will sell its innovative drugs at prices 25% to 40% less than what those are in the US.
  • MSD  has already introduced its India specific price for patented products. Their patented cervical cancer drug Gardasil is being sold in India at 75% -80% less than the global prices.
  • Moreover, MSD’s patented anti-diabetic drug Januvia (sitagliptin phosphate) is locally sourced and marketed at one-tenth of the global price.
  • In 2008 Novartis  reportedly tied up with the domestic pharma major USV to market its patented anti-diabetic drug Galvus (Vildagliptin) by pricing it lower than Januvia. According to reports, Novartis markets Galvus in the metros, while USV markets the same brand in tier two and three cities of India.
  • Roche  has recently collaborated with the domestic pharma player Emcure Pharmaceuticals to manufacture its two well-known biologics Herceptin and MabThera not only to cater to the domestic needs, but also for export to other developing markets.

Manufacturing of a small quantity locally – an issue:

As quoted in the order of the CGPDTM there are around 8842 eligible patients for sorafenib in India. All these patients put together will require Nexavar ranging from 27000 (Bayer’s figure) to 70000 boxes (NATCO’s figure) per year.  Thus, the moot question remains: even for such small annual requirements, should global companies set up manufacturing facilities in all the countries like, India.

Another question: if other smaller markets of the world also make local manufacturing mandatory for any pharmaceutical products that will be sold in their respective countries, will the Indian players find those markets attractive enough to expand their business? In that case who will be the net losers?… Patients?


If the issue of whether importation will be considered as ‘local working of patents’ or not is not answered conclusively under higher judicial scrutiny in conformity of Article 27.1 of TRIPS and CL is granted to local manufacturers for commercial benefits under similar situation, availability of life saving innovative products in the Indian market for the patients of India could be in a real jeopardy.

The objective of improving access to innovative medicines is a very desirable one for any country like ours. However, if India routinely starts granting CL for this purpose before exhausting all other avenues to achieve this goal, it would risk sending a very wrong signal to the outside world that the country is shirking its responsibilities to create an appropriate ecosystem to foster and support pharmaceutical innovation to offer better quality of lives to the citizens of the country in particular.

In the absence of both collaboration and foreign direct investments by the global innovators in the field of pharmaceutical research and development, India may feel handicapped, especially when our neighbor China is surging ahead in this field with longer strides.

Thus, routine grant of CL, as is being envisaged by many in India, on a similar situation could, on the contrary, make the issue of access to innovative medicines by the common man even more challenging, in the longer run.

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.

Arresting continuous job losses in the global pharma industry call for innovation across the value chain

In not too distant past, the stocks of the global pharmaceutical companies, by and large, used to be categorized as ‘blue-chips’ for their high return to investors, as compared to many other sectors.

Unfortunately, the situation has changed significantly since then. Most of those large players now appear to be under tremendous pressure for excellence in performance.

The issues of ‘Patent Cliff’, coupled with patent expiries, price and margin pressures from payors’ group in the developed world, have already started haunting the research based pharmaceutical companies and are assuming larger proportions day by day.

The situation continues to be grim:

Collective impact of all the above factors has prompted the major pharma players to resort to huge cost cutting exercises leading to employee layoffs, quite often, in a massive scale.

According to a study done by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., which was also quoted in the Forbes Magazine, April 13, 2011, 297,650 employees were laid off by the global pharma industry between the years 2000 and 2011.


Number of Job cuts

























Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©/Forbes Magazine, April 13, 2011

Top of the list layoffs:

Forbes, Pharma and Healthcare, June 10, 2011 reported ‘top of the list layoffs’ in the Global Pharmaceutical Industry from 2004 to 2011. This number reported to be comparable to as many people working at the three largest drug companies combined namely, Pfizer, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline GSK in 2011.

Company No of layoffs
Pfizer 58,071
Merck 44,400
Johnson & Johnson 9,900
Eli Lilly 5,500
Bristol-Myers Squibb 4,600

More recently ‘Mail online’ dated February 3, 2012 reported that Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announces 7,300 job losses as it pares back staff to save money’. Immediately, thereafter, on February 24, 2012 Reuters reported that ‘German drugs and chemicals group Merck KGaA has announced plans for a cost-cutting program across all its businesses that may include job cuts’.

The old paradigm is no longer relevant:

To get insight into the future challenges of the pharmaceutical industry in general ‘Complete Medical Group’ of U.K had conducted a study with a sizable number of senior participants from the pharmaceutical companies of various sizes and involving many countries. The survey covered participants from various functional expertise like, marketing, product development, commercial, pricing and other important areas. The report highlighted that a paradigm shift has taken place in the global pharmaceutical industry, where continuation with the business strategies of the old paradigm will no longer be a pragmatic option.

Learning from the results of the above study, which brought out several big challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry in the new paradigm, my submissions are as follows:

Collaborative Research to overcome R&D productivity crisis: The cost of each new drug approval has now reached a humongous proportion and is still increasing. This spiraling R&D cost does not seem to be sustainable any longer. Thus there emerges a need to re-evaluate the R&D model of the pharmaceutical companies to make it cost effective with lesser built-in risk factors. Could there be a collaborative model for R&D, where multiple stakeholders will join hands to discover new patented molecules? In this model all involved parties would be in agreement on what will be considered as important innovations and share the ‘risk and reward’ of R&D as the collaborative initiative progresses. The Translational Medicine Research Collaboration (TMRC) partnering with Pfizer and others, ‘Patent Pool’ initiative for tropical diseases of GSK and OSDD for Tuberculosis by CSIR in India are examples of steps taken towards this direction. Surely such collaborative initiatives are not easy and perhaps may also not be acceptable to many large global players as on date, but they are not absolutely uncommon either. The world has already witnessed such collaborative research, especially in the sectors, like Information Technology (IT). Thus, it remains quite possible, as the industry moves on, that the world will have opportunities to take note of initiation of various cost effective collaborative R&D projects to create a win-win situation for all stakeholders in the global healthcare space. Greater access to fast growing markets: The increasing power of payors in the developed world and the interventions of the Government on the ground of ‘affordability of medicines’ in the developing countries are creating an all pervasive pricing/margin pressure for the pharmaceutical players.

These critical emerging developments can be effectively negotiated with significant increase in market access, especially in the emerging economies of the world, with each country specific business strategies. ‘One size fits all’ type of standardized approach, currently adopted by some large global players in the markets like India, may not be able to fetch significant dividend in the years ahead.

Better understanding of the new and differential value offerings that the payors, doctors and patients will increasingly look for, much beyond the physical products/brands, would prove to be the cutting edge for the winners for greater market access in the emerging economies.

Current business processes need significant re-engineering: Top management teams of many global pharma companies have already started evaluating the relevance of sole dependance on the current R&D based pharmaceutical business model. They will now need to include in their strategy wider areas of healthcare value delivery system with a holistic disease management focus.

Only treatment of diseases may no longer be considered enough with an offering of just various types of medications. Added value with effective non-therapeutic/incremental disease management/prevention initiatives and appropriately improving quality of life of the patients, especially in case of chronic ailments, will assume increasing importance in the pharmaceutical business process in the emerging markets. Continuous innovation required not just in R&D, but across the value chain: Continuous innovation across the pharmaceutical value chain, beyond pharmaceutical R&D, is the most critical success factor. The ability to harness new technologies, rather than just recognize their potential, and the flexibility to adapt to the fast changing and demanding regulatory environment together with patients’ newer value requirements, should be a critical part of the business strategy of  the pharmaceutical companies in the new paradigm. Avoidance of silos, integrating decision making processes: More complex, highly fragmented and cut throat competition have created a need for better, more aligned and integrated decision making process across various functional areas of the pharmaceutical business. Creation of silos, duplication of processes and empire building have long been a significant trend, especially, in the larger pharmaceutical companies. Part of a better decision making will include more pragmatic and efficient deployment of investments and other resources  for organizational value creation and jettisoning all those activities, which are duplications, organizational flab producing and will no longer deliver differential value to the stakeholders. Finding newer ways of customer engagement: Growing complexity of the business environment is making meaningful interactions with the customers and decision makers increasingly challenging. There is a greater need for better management of the pharmaceutical communication channels to strike a right balance between ‘pushing’ information to the doctors, patients and other stakeholders and helping them ‘pull’ the relevant information whenever required. Questioning perceived ‘fundamentals’ of the old paradigm:

Despite a paradigm shift in the business environment, fundamental way the pharmaceutical industry appears to have been attempting to address these critical issues over a decade, has not changed much.

In their attempt to unleash the future growth potential, the pharmaceutical players are still moving around the same old dictums like, innovative new product development, scientific sales and marketing, satisfying customer needs, application of information technology (IT) in all areas of strategy making process including supply chain, building blockbuster brands, continuing medical education, greater market penetration skills, to name just a few. Unfortunately, despite all such resource intensive initiatives, over a period of time, nothing seems to have changed fundamentally, excepting, probably, some sort of arrest in the rate of declining process.


Such incremental focus over a long period of time on the same areas, far from being able to ride the tide of change effectively, does ring an alarm bell to some experts. More so, when all these initiatives continue to remain their prime catalysts for change even today to meet new challenges of a different paradigm altogether.

The moot question therefore remains: what are the companies achieving from all heavy investments being continuously made in these areas since long…and why have they not been able to address the needs of the new ball game for business excellence, effectively, thus far?

When results are not forthcoming despite having taken all such measures, many of them have no options but to resort to heavy cost cutting measures including job losses to protect the profit margin, as much as one possibly can.

If the issues related to declining rate of global pharmaceutical business performance is not addressed sooner moving ‘outside the box’ and with ‘lateral thinking’, one can well imagine what would its implication be, in the endeavor towards arresting continuous job losses through business excellence, in the years ahead.

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.

Quantum Growth Envisaged in Government Procurement for Pharmaceuticals: A Challenging Ball Game for Pharma Players

Direct procurement by the Governments of various countries is attracting increasing importance not just at the domestic level, but internationally, as well. The systems adopted for Government Procurement (GP) globally are aimed at making a significant difference in the effectiveness of utilization of the exchequers’ fund and the quality of governance in the respective countries. Absolute transparency in the entire process of GP, extending fair and equal opportunities to all suppliers, is of utmost importance.

According to ‘The Center of International Development at the Harvard University, USA’, Government Procurement of goods and services typically accounts for 10-15% of GDP for the developed countries, and up to 20% of GDP for the developing nations. As a result, the local GP markets have started attracting attention of even the overseas suppliers to make this process an integral part of Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs) between countries.

GP was excluded in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiated in 1947. However, as the years progressed the members of WTO started exploring various ways to include GP in the multilateral trading system.

The proponents of WTO agreements on GP argue that the purchase decision of the governments on GP of goods and services should be non-discriminatory, irrespective of who produces the goods or renders required services, including foreign suppliers, if any.

GPA- The plurilateral Agreement:

In January 1, 1994 along with ‘Uruguay Round’ a landmark agreement was reached on GP, which is known as “The plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA)”. This agreement was administered by a Committee of WTO members, who are Parties to the GPA and was signed by 41 of the 153 members of the WTO.

India joins as an observer in GPA – the first step for membership:

On Feb 11, 2010 ‘Reuters’ reported that “India has joined the World Trade Organization’s government procurement agreement as an observer, a first step to membership in the scheme regulating trade in goods bought by governments”. With this India joined other 22 WTO members with the same observer status, when 9 members including China are in the process of negotiation for full membership of the GPA.

On December 15, 2011, WTO reported a historic agreement by the members of GPA to ‘improve the disciplines for GP and expand the market access coverage valued at between 80 to 100 billion dollars a year’.

The opposition to GPA:

That said, those who oppose GPA also put forth strong arguments. They believe that such agreements instead of creating so called a ‘level playing field’ for all, would further complicate the situation where the developing countries, leave aside the least developed ones, would continue to remain at a disadvantage as compared to  the developed industrial nations.

The developing countries and the relief organizations argue that the growing industries of the developing nations will suffer most, if matured global companies are allowed to compete for GP together with the domestic players. Such a situation, they apprehend, could snow ball into huge balance of payment issues for the developing and the least developed nations.

Pharmaceuticals: Second largest item in public healthcare budget:

According to WHO, for the developing countries like India pharmaceuticals are the second largest item of expenditure, after personnel costs, ranging from 8 per cent to 12 per cent of the public health budget. Thus, such fund should be utilized with utmost care within a transparent and highly efficient GP system. It is envisaged, that efficient GP systems will play critical role in improving access to medicines in India.

GP for Pharmaceuticals in India:

The process of procurement of drugs and pharmaceuticals by the Ministry of Health of the Government of India is usually entrusted to an agency known as ‘Hospital Services Consultancy Corporation (HSCC)’. This multidisciplinary consultancy organization was set up to extend quality consultancy services in healthcare and other social sectors of the country.  HSCC undertakes the following:

  • Procurement of drugs and pharmaceuticals
  • Tendering process
  • Placement of orders
  • Follow-up, inspection and dispatch

So far, many World Bank supported programs for procurement of drugs and pharmaceuticals for Malaria, Tuberculosis, and Reproductive Child Health etc. were initiated by the HSCC. The procurement services of HSCC are in line with the procedures adopted by the World Bank.

Health being a State subject in India, pharmaceutical procurement is made by both the Central and State Governments, besides large private health institutions.

Though over 25 per cent of the total public sector drug volume is procured by the Central Government, there is no single Central Government procurement agency. Following are the key agencies currently handling the Central Government procurement for pharmaceuticals through competitive tendering process:

  • Central Government Health Services (CGHS)
  • Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS)
  • Medical Stores Organization (MSO)

Examples of GP in the states:

Many state Governments have already started putting in place the GP process for pharmaceuticals in their respective states. This process is expected to gain momentum as we move ahead. Examples of GP system of some of the State Governments in India are as follows:


In 1996, to promote rational drug use with high quality of medicines, the ‘Delhi Society for Promotion of Rational Use of Drugs (DSPRUD)’ with the technical assistance from WHO introduced a pooled procurement system for all state-run hospitals and 150 Primary Health Centers (PHCs) in Delhi.

This robust procurement system with a competitive bidding process has reportedly resulted in price reduction of high quality medicines by 30-40 per cent. State-run hospitals and the PHCs now supply these prescriptions medicines to over 80 per cent of patients.

WHO, encouraged by the success of the ‘Delhi Model’, has recommended it to the other States of India. Currently the following State Governments are implementing the program in their respective states:

  • Maharashtra
  • Rajasthan
  • Punjab
  • Himachal Pradesh

Tamil Nadu:

In January 1995, Tamil Nadu Government had set up a Government-run Company known as, Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC). The main purpose of TNMSC was to make all essential drugs available in nearly 2000 government medical institutions throughout the State, with a well-structured, uniform and standardized system for procurement, storage and distribution of medicines.

To ensure efficient procurement of high quality drugs at competitive prices, TNMSC follows an open tendering system for purchases only from reputed manufacturers with a pre-specified minimum overall business turnover, having a market standing of not less than three years. Standby suppliers are also selected at the same time to eliminate any drug shortages for delayed or non-supply by the first supplier.

The competitive procurement bid system has reportedly enabled TNMSC to save on drugs to the tune of 36% of the allocation.

Andhra Pradesh (AP):

In AP public health care system delivers services at all levels of primary, secondary and tertiary care.

In 1998, a centralized pooled drug procurement system was implemented in AP with the establishment of the Drug Procurement Wing (DPW) within the ‘Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure State Development Corporation (APISDC)’.

For high quality GP they introduced a two tier system for bidding and procurement, starting with the technical bid and followed by the actual financial bidding process.

In this system, details of drug requirements are collected from public hospitals within the state, collated by the DPW and thereafter consolidated orders are placed to the competitive bid winners for supplying required essential medicines at the medical stores of each district of the state.


Odisha has a centralized system of procurement of drugs featuring in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).

To ensure quality procurement, a pre-qualification stipulation of quality parameters and competitive price quotations are looked at.

Small Scale Industries (SSIs) are entitled to 5 per cent price preference along with other relaxations like, partial exemption from earnest money deposit and concession in sales tax.

A recent evaluation of the Drugs Distribution System in Odisha by WHO has highlighted that the key NLEM drug availability in all the centers except one in the state ranged from 80 to 100%.

UHC – A potential GP growth booster:

The recommendation no. 3.1.10 of the report titled ‘High Level Expert Group Report on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for India’, instituted by the Planning Commission, clearly indicates that purchases of all health care services under the UHC system should be undertaken either directly by the Central and state governments through their Departments of Health or by quasi-governmental autonomous agencies established for the purpose.

PMO push for free drugs at Government hospitals:

Quoting the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), ‘The Times of India’ on February 13, 2012 reported that availability of free medicines to all patients visiting any government health facility across the country will soon be a reality, as the Ministry of Health (MoH) is planning to spend around Rs 30,000 Crore under ‘free-medicines-for-all’ scheme with the  strong support of the PMO.

Quantum growth envisaged in the GP system:

UHC along with the above free medicine initiative by the MoH and expanded coverage of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)/ National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) are expected to make GP for pharmaceuticals a critical procurement initiative of the nation.

This appears more realistic when seen together with the increase in public spend allocation on health by the Planning Commission of India from current 0.9 per cent to 2.5 per cent of GDP during the Twelfth Five Year Plan period.

Thus a quantum growth is envisaged in the GP system for pharmaceuticals within the country.


From all available indicators, it appears that GP for pharmaceuticals in India will assume immense importance to both the global and local pharmaceutical companies.

The Central Government, with ‘The Draft Public Procurement Bill, 2011’, seems to have already started moving in this direction. The enactment of this Bill will facilitate the Government not only to effectively leverage the state bargaining power for the prices of medicines, but also to ensure efficient delivery of high quality products to a very large section of the society.

Quite in tandem various State Governments should also either create afresh or revamp the existing procurement system, as the case may be, to put in place a robust GP mechanism in their respective states.

One clear outcome of the expansion of GP system for sure will be enormous pricing pressure on the pharmaceutical players in India, which will be quite challenging to navigate.

The scenario will get even more complex and heated up, especially for the smaller pharmaceutical players, as and when India becomes a signatory to the GPA of the WTO, opening its door wide ajar for the large global players to participate in the pharmaceutical bidding process of the Government, well facilitated by various FTAs.

In this rapidly evolving environment, are the pharma players, both global and local, ready with appropriate strategies and systems in place to participate in yet another challenging new ball game of low margin and high volume pharmaceutical business in India?

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.