Sets 2013, Dawns 2014: Top 7 Pharma Developments

Wish You Good Health, Happiness, Success and Prosperity in 2014

In this article I shall focus on ‘Top 7 Pharma Developments’, both while ‘Looking Back to 2013′ and also during my ‘Crystal Gazing 2014′.

Looking Back to 2013:

While looking back, the ‘Top 7  Pharma Developments’ unfolded in India during 2013, in my opinion, are as follows:

1. Supreme Court judgment on Glivec: 

The landmark Supreme Court judgment on the Glivec case has vindicated, though much to the dismay of pharma MNCs, the need to strike a right balance between encouraging and protecting innovation, including incremental ones, and the public health interest of India.

2. DPCO 2013:

Following the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy (NPPP) of December 2012, the new Drug Price Control Order 2013 (DPCO 2013) signaled a significant departure from the decades old systems of arriving at both the ‘span’ and also the ‘methodology’ of drug price control in India. However, its implementation has been rather tardy as on today.

As a result, at the very beginning of the process of its effective roll-out, the new DPCO faltered badly. It created unprecedented complications and dead-locks not just for the pharmaceutical companies and the trade, but for the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), as well, which has not been able to announce the new ceiling prices for at least 100 essential drugs, even 8 months after notification of this order.

The pharma companies and the NGOs have already taken this policy to the court, though for different reasons. The rationale for the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011 has also been questioned by many along with a strong demand for its immediate review.

Thus much awaited DPCO 2013 is still charting on a slippery ground.

3. India, China revoked 4 pharma patents:

In the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) arena many National Governments have now started asserting themselves against the prolonged hegemony of the Western World pressing for most stringent patent regime across the globe, at times even surreptitiously. Such assertions of these countries signal a clear tilt in the balance, favoring patients’ health interest rather than hefty gains in business profits, much to the delight of majority of world population.

Revocation of four drug patents by India and China within a fortnight during July-August 2013 period has thus raised many eyebrows, especially within the pharma Multinational Corporations (MNCs). In this short period, India has revoked three patents and China one.

While these unexpected and rather quick developments are probably double whammy for the pharma MNCs operating in India and China, a future trend would possibly emerge as soon as one is able to connect the evolving dots.

4. Supreme Court intervened in Clinical trials (CT):

With a damning stricture to the Indian Drug Regulator, the Supreme Court, in response to a PIL filed by the NGO Swasthya Adhikar Manch, came out heavily on the way Clinical Trials (CTs) are approved and conducted in the country.

Breaking the nexus decisively between a section of the powerful pharma lobby groups and the drug regulator, as highlighted even in the Parliamentary Committee report, the Ministry of Health, as reported to the Supreme Court, is now in the process of quickly putting in place a robust and transparent CT mechanism in India.

This well thought-out new system, besides ensuring patients’ safety and fair play for all, is expected to have the potential to help reaping a rich economic harvest through creation of a meaningful and vibrant CT industry in India, simultaneously benefitting millions of patients, in the years ahead.

5. US-FDA/UK-MHRA drug import bans: 

Continuous reports from US-FDA and UK-MHRA on fraudulent regulatory acts, lying and falsification of drug quality data, by some otherwise quite capable Indian players, have culminated into several import bans of drugs manufactured in those units. All these incidents have just not invited disgrace to the country in this area, but also prompted other national regulators to assess whether such bans might suggest issues for drugs manufactured for their respective countries, as well.

This despicable mindset of the concerned key players, if remains unleashed, could make Indian Pharma gravitating down, stampeding all hopes of harvesting the incoming bright opportunities.

The ‘Import Alert’ of the USFDA against Mohali plant of Ranbaxy, has already caused inordinate delay in the introduction of a cheaper generic version of Diovan, the blockbuster antihypertensive drug of Novartis AG, after it went off patent. It is worth noting that Ranbaxy had the exclusive right to sell a generic version of Diovan from September 21, 2012.

The outcome of such malpractices may go beyond the drug regulatory areas, affecting even the valuations of concerned Indian pharma companies.

6. Pharma FDI revisited in India: 

After a series of inter-ministerial consultations, the Government of India has maintained 100 percent FDI in pharma brownfield projects through FIPB route. However, removal of the ‘non-compete’ clause in such agreements has made a significant difference in the pharma M&A landscape.

7. ‘No payment for prescriptions’:

Unprecedented acknowledgement and the decision of GSK’s global CEO for not making payments to any doctor, either for participating or speaking in seminars/conferences to influence prescription decision in favor of its brands, would indeed be considered as bold and laudable. This enunciation, if implemented in letter and spirit by all other players of the industry, could trigger a paradigm shift in the prescription demand generation process for pharmaceuticals brands.

Crystal Gazing 2014:

While ‘Crystal Gazing 2014′, once again, the following ‘Top 7 (most likely) Pharma Developments’, besides many brighter growth opportunities, come to the fore:

1. Public Interest Litigation (PIL) now pending before the Supreme Court challenging DPCO 2013 may put the ‘market based pricing’ concept in jeopardy, placing the pharma price control system back to square one.

2. The possibility of revision of NLEM 2011, as many essential drugs and combinations have still remained outside its purview, appears to be imminent. This decision, if taken, would bring other important drugs also under price control.

3. Universal Health Care (UHC) related pilot projects are likely to be implemented pan-India along with ‘free distribution of medicines’ from Government hospitals and health centers in 2014. Along side, more Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives may come up in the healthcare space improving access to quality healthcare to more number of patients.

4. With the Supreme Court interventions in response to the pending PILs, more stringent regulatory requirements for CT, Product Marketing approvals, Pricing of Patented Medicines and Ethical Marketing practices may come into force.

5. Possibilities of more number of patent challenges with consequent revocations and grant of several Compulsory Licenses (CL) for exorbitantly priced drugs in life-threatening disease areas like, cancer, loom large. At the same time, between 2013 and 2018, US$ 230 billion of sales would be at risk from patent expirations, offering a great opportunity to the Indian generic players to boost their exports in the developed markets of the world.

6. More consolidation within the pharmaceutical industry may take place with valuation still remaining high.

7. Overall pharma IPR scenario in India is expected to remain as robust and patient friendly as it is today, adding much to the worry of the MNCs and relief to the patients, in addition to the generic industry. More number of countries are expected to align with India in this important area.


The year 2013, especially for the pharmaceutical industry in India, was indeed eventful. The ‘Top Seven’ that I have picked-up, out of various interesting developments during the year, could in many ways throw-open greater challenges for 2014.

My ‘Crystal Gazing 2014’, would challenge the pharma players to jettison their old and traditional business mindsets, carving out new, time-specific, robust and market savvy strategic models to effectively harvest newer opportunities for growth.

That said, the pharmaceutical industry will continue to thrive in India with gusto, including the MNCs, mainly because of immense potential that the domestic market offers in its every conceivable business verticals, propelled by continuous high growth trend in the domestic consumption of medicines, excepting some minor aberrations.

The New Year 2014, I reckon, would herald yet another interesting paradigm for the pharma industry. A paradigm that would throw open many lucrative opportunities for growth, both global and local, and at the same time keep churning out different sets of rapidly evolving issues, requiring more innovative honed corporate skill-sets for their speedy redressal, as the time keeps ticking.

By: Tapan J. Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.


Differentiating Seven ‘Ps’ of Marketing-Mix for Health Food Products – A strategic overview

As estimated by Nicholas Hall the health food products market in India is currently around U.S.$ 1.3 Billion with a huge marketing potential. However, the marketing-mix for such groups of health food products will need to be crafted in an innovative way and carefully tailored to suit the need of individual brands, by an astute marketer.
Definition of Health Food Products:In my view, the health food products are those, which have a favorable impact on human health, their physical performance or state of mind. Such products include various types of food substances, dietary supplements with medical benefits and are used mostly for the prevention of various types of diseases.

The global market:

The global market for health food products is projected to be around U.S.$ 190 Billion by 2010 with a CAGR of 6.1% during 2000 – 2010. In 2007 its market size was reported to be U.S.$ 166 Billion.

Categories of health food products:

Before we delve into the space of marketing-mix, let me try to categorize these products under the following six categories:

Functional Foods:

- These are dietary components, which provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition, like
isabgool or psyllium husk, whey proteins, bran or oats

Medicinal Foods:

- These are functional foods with more medicinal value, for e.g. cranberry juice, anti-diabetic/anti-obesity health
bars with added medication etc.


- This category comprises of substances which are foods or part of a food with usually preventive health benefits
like vitamins, minerals, gingko biloba, coenzyme Q10, carnitine, ginseng, garlic, tulsi, kalmegh, brahmi, saffron,
ashwagandha, green tea, karela powder etc.


- These products are like lycopene found in tomatoes or flavanoids in fruits. Such substances usually do not
possess any nutritive value but offer some disease preventive properties.

Ayurvedic and Herbal Medicines:

- These are derived from plants and are used as such or in form of extracts and possess disease preventive

Other health related products are like sports nutrition and various types of organic foods.

Key Drivers:

In my view following are the four key drivers of the health food products market in India:

Consumer awareness:
- Increasing consumer health consciousness will increase the popularity of health food products

Changing lifestyle:
- Incidence of lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases has been
increasing with fast changing consumer lifestyle. Moreover, increasing cost of serious medical treatment is
also encouraging people to go for preventive health care.

Ageing population:
- Ageing population in India is expected to contribute significantly to increase the demand for health foods
supplements and functional foods to address various types age related health conditions.

New scientific evidence of various health foods:
- Ongoing scientific research studies to establish health benefits of various food substances and dietary
supplements will help expanding the ambit health food products at a faster speed.

Key challenges for Herbal Food Products:

Herbal products taken from two or more different sources may not necessarily have the same potency, leading to concerns of batch to batch product quality variations in terms of efficacy, which depends on the potency of the material used.

Differentiating the marketing-mix:

For health food products, instead of conventional four Ps of marketing, one will need to consider the following seven Ps:

1. Product :

Health food products will need to have the following:

• Scientifically documented health benefits
• Innovative product development targeting different consumer segments
• Clear brand differentiation
-Without this ‘Horlicks Vs Viva’ story is expected to be repeated more often than in the past with enlightened consumer base.
• Reasonable standardization

2. Place:

Innovative use of this ‘P’ will play a critical role in the success of any health food product.

The following distribution outlets for the health food products are important:

• Kirana / Grocery stores
• Supermarkets

However, equally important is the availability of these products in pharmacies as many consumers will perceive these products as important as medicines and may enquire at the pharmacy outlets for their availability.

• Multi Level Marketing (MLM)
- MLM can be used innovatively for health food products marketing, as is being done currently by Amway, Herbal Life etc.

3. Price:

Price of a health food product like many other products is a function of values that the brand will offer and will also depend on:

• Differential brand features and benefits
• Product life cycle

However, pressure on margin for health food products will be more due to:
• Strong bargaining power of distributors’ chain / supermarket stores, unlike pharmaceutical products where retail and wholesale margin is fixed in India
• High promotional expenditure due to usage of both mass media and relatively intensive personal selling.

4. Promotion :

For health food promotion following common tools just like any consumer product marketing will help:

• Advertising through mass media
• Point of Purchase Promotion (POP)
• Sampling

In addition, following campaigns may prove to be highly beneficial for such products:

• Awareness campaign for usefulness of disease prevention measures
• Medical promotion
- This will be important especially for health food products designed for children where the parents usually seek a doctor’s opinion about the product benefits. Doctors may not necessarily prescribe the product but their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer in reply to parents’ questions on the product may prompt whether the parents will continue with this product for the child or not.

Other types of promotion for health food products may be the following:

• Multi level marketing
• Promotion in schools, sports clubs etc.
• Telemarketing of brand services
- These are especially important for health food products meant for children. In such cases, a telemarketing cell consisting of trained nurses or dieticians, will enquire about the progress of the child with the product and give various advices to the mothers for the child, as required by them. Such types of telemarketing services through specialists will help adding a premium image to the brand to indirectly boost up the sales.
• Internet / social forums
- These tools can also be innovatively used for health food brand promotion.

5. People :

For health food products marketing, people with the following skill sets have been found immensely beneficial:

• Sales person with additional training inputs on concerned health related subjects
• Telemarketing of services with people having nursing or a dietician’s background

6. Process :

- All other ‘P’s’ may work with absolute efficiency, but if the marketing process remains inefficient, the branding exercise may be adversely impacted. Thus following areas need to concentrated upon with equal zest:

• Process efficiency
• Process speed
• Process innovation
• Efficiency of IT interface within the marketing process

7. Physical Evidence :

Now a day’s individual enlightened consumer usually wants to know the ability of the manufacturer and the environment in which a product is manufactured, along with the quality of services that is delivered for the brand. Hence, while considering the marketing-mix for health food products the ‘P’ of ‘physical evidence’ is expected to play an increasingly important role.


It is therefore of immense importance for the marketers to consider the differentiated marketing-mix of seven ‘Ps’ for health food products in their branding exercise.

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.