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INDIA MAKing DRUGS, VACCINES FOR WORLD

COVID-19 affirmed India’s status as a global pharma manufacturer

In the ever-increasing demand for pharmaceutical solutions and products globally, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has certainly established itself as a significant contributor. During the COVID-19 pandemic, India has been on the forefront with a huge export volume of medicines and medical equipment to different countries to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, which included exports of over 65 million vaccines globally.

India continues to play a key role in producing various critical, high quality and affordable medicines for domestic and global markets. India caters to 50-60 per cent of the global demand for different vaccines, including ARVs. Almost 40 per cent of generic drugs consumed in the United States and 25 per cent of all the medicines dispensed in the United Kingdom are supplied by India.

India accounts for 60 per cent of global vaccine production, contributing 40-70 per cent of the WHO demand for Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DPT) and BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guerin) vaccines, and 90 per cent of the WHO demand for measles vaccine.

With low-cost skilled manpower and a solid domestic production base, India is gradually emerging as a global base for pharma manufacturing. The Indian pharmaceutical industry has gained from steps taken by the government such as changes in industrial policy, patent law and investments in developing indigenous capacity. Indian pharmaceuticals only had a five per cent share of the market in India, while foreign-owned pharmaceutical companies had a 95 per cent share in 1947.

However, fast forward to 2020, domestic companies held close to an 85 per cent share of the pharma market.  By regulating prices through ‘Drug Prices Control Order’ and encouraging the manufacture of generic drugs, the government paved the way for the growth of both public-sector and private companies. It was the changes in the Indian Patent Act of 1970 that led to a booming generics drugs industry in India which was valued at $33 billion in 2017.

India joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the 90’s and had to sign the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. Though this created certain challenges for the industry, India continued to build on its advantages and manufacture lifesaving and affordable drugs, vaccines and diagnostics which rightfully earned it the moniker—pharmacy of the world.

The Indian pharmaceutical industry is also gaining from research, innovation and manufacturing. An Indian company was the first to develop novel processes for manufacturing a Hepatitis B vaccine and reduce prices to less than $1 per dose. After WHO prequalification, low-cost mass vaccination was enabled globally through organizations like UNICEF.

In 2002, an Indian pharmaceutical company partnered with the MVP (Meningitis Vaccine Project) in 2002 and successfully manufactured and licensed MenAfriVac (an affordable Meningitis-A conjugate vaccine for Africa) in 2010, the first internationally qualified vaccine that was developed outside the major multinational pharmaceutical companies.

In another notable achievement, an Indian pharmaceutical company became the world’s first to launch a clinically proven Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine against typhoid fever and received prequalification from WHO. In 2015, an Indian pharma company launched ROTAVAC- the cheapest Rotavirus vaccine in the world at $1 per dose.

While the government has introduced several initiatives to boost the advancement of research and development in the pharmaceutical sector, more innovations are required to become the global pharmaceutical leader. It is crucial to create an inclusive environment for industry experts, academicians and other stakeholders to have a common platform for the advancement of R&D in the pharmaceutical sector.

(The author is CEO, Entod Pharmaceuticals)



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