Currently in India about 400 different types of APIs are manufactured in around 3000 plants, Ranbaxy Laboratories, Lupin, Shasun Chemicals, Orchid Chemicals, Aurobindo Pharma, Sun Pharmaceuticals Ipca Laboratories and USV being the top API manufacturers of the country. Indian domestic companies source almost 50 percent of their API requirements from China, because of lower cost in that country.
In terms of global ranking, India is now the third largest API producers of the world just after China and Italy and by 2011 is expected to be the second largest producer after China. However, in Drug Master File (DMF) filings India is currently ahead of China.
In addition, India scores over China in ‘documentation’ and ‘Environment, Health and Safety (EHS)’ compliance. All these have contributed to India having around 100 US FDA approved world class manufacturing facilities, which is considered the largest outside the USA.
Indian API manufacturers are facing a cut throat competition from their Chinese counterparts mainly because of lower costs in China. Considerably higher economies of scale and various types of support that the Chinese API manufacturers receive from their Government are the main reasons for such cost differential.
Growing competiton from the regulated markets:
We now observe a new trend within the API space in India. Many of the global innovators and generic companies are keen to enter into the API space of India.
It is known that API manufacturers from the regulated markets are already selling their products in India. However, at present, the numbers of Indian registrations for API applied by some of the large global companies, as reported by ‘Thomson Reuters Newport Horizon Premium’, are quite significant, which are as follows:
1. Novartis, Switzerland:20
2. Pfizer, USA:16
3. Sanofi-Aventis, France: 26
4. Teva, Israel: 45
5. Schering-Plough, USA:39
6. BASF: 37
7. DSM: 26
8. E.ON AG: 16
9. Kyowa Hakko: 23
All these companies who are entering into the API business space in India, I am sure, have worked out a grand design to compete not only with the the low cost domestic API manufacturers, but also with the cheaper imports, particularly from China.
What will then be the competitive edge of these companies in India?
It appears that each of these companies has weighed very carefully the existing strategic opportunities in the API sectors of India, both in terms up technology and also in terms of domestic demand.
Strategic gap in API manufacturing technology:
India, undeniably, is one of the key global hubs in the API space, with competitive edge mainly in ‘non-fermentation technology’ product areas. This leaves a wide and perceptible technological gap in the areas of products requiring ‘fermentation technology‘.
Significant demand from domestic formulations manufacturing :
India is much ahead of China in pharmaceutical formulations manufacturing, especially in the area of exports to the regulated markets like, the USA and EU. Over 25 domestic Indian companies are currently catering to exports demand of the U.S market. However, it is interesting to note that the global manufacturers like Sandoz, Eisai, Watson, Mylan have already set up their formulations manufacturing facilities in India and some more are expected to follow suit over a period of time. Hence, fast growing domestic demand for APIs, especially for exports, will drive the business plan of the global API players for India.
Is the cost advantage in India sustainable?
Indian API manufacturers although currently have a cost advantage compared to their counterparts in the regulated market, this advantage is not sustainable over a period of time because of various reasons. The key reason being sharp increase in cost related to more stringent environmental and regulatory compliance, besides spiralling manpower and other overhead costs.
Indian regulatory requirements for the global API players:
To sell their APIs into India, global companies are now required to obtain the following regulatory approvals from the Indian authorities:
1. Foreign manufacturing sites for the concerned products
2. APIs which will be imported in the country
The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has stipulated a fee of U.S$1,500 to register the manufacturing premises and U.S$1,000 to register each individual API. Since January 2003, around 1,200 registration certificates have been issued in India. Large number of Indian registrations is attributed by many to the strategic technology gap in India, as stated above, demand of high-quality API for finished formulations required by the regulated markets like the U.S and EU, and relatively cheaper product registration process.
As we see above Teva has gone for maximum number of Indian registrations, so far and most probably selling the APIs to their contract formulations manufacturers in India. Similarly, Schering-Plough and Sanofi-Aventis, if not Pfizer are perhaps catering to the API demand of their respective formulations manufacturing plants in the country.
Whatever may be the reasons, these global players are now exporting APIs at a much larger scale to India and in that process have started curving out a niche for themselves in the Indian API market. Impressive growth of the domestic pharmaceutical formulations manufacturing market fueled by increasing domestic consumption and exports to the regulated markets, coupled with gradual improvement in the regulatory environment of the country, is expected to drive the growth of API business of the global players.
However, the moot question is how significant will this competition be?
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.