Leapfrogging into the future of Indian pharma
Over the last two decades, the Indian pharma industry has grown leaps and bounds driven by its strength in the global generics space to the extent of being conferred the stature of becoming the pharmacy of the world. The Indian pharmaceutical industry ranks third worldwide for production by volume and caters to 20% of the global demand in the generic market in terms of volume. With a strong network of 3,000 drug companies and approximately 10,500 manufacturing units spread across the length and breadth of the country, India offers a unique competitive advantage in the global pharmaceutical industry. Having said that, for Indian pharma to rise up in the global pharma order, focusing on certain aspects are vital, this includes, building a conducive environment for spurring domestic manufacturing and exports, as well as encouraging innovation through an increased research and development (R&D) push.
The pandemic accelerated pharma industry’s reimagination drive and the industry demonstrated remarkable collaboration across the board and stood in solidarity to abate the threat to human life. Our industry embraced a technology-driven approach and harnessed data to unlock new growth opportunities and imbibed pivotal lessons.
With its distinctive capabilities in product development, manufacturing prowess and strong distribution muscle, today, India’s pharmaceutical exports are utilised in almost 206 countries across the world and in FY 21, the exports from the industry stood at $24.44 billion. It is a long march for India to create a global dominance in the pharmaceutical industry and to achieve this, some of the aspects that I believe are crucial in this regard are:
The changing landscape of the domestic pharma industry: India’s domestic pharmaceutical market has seen a year on year growth of 9.8%, the shift from being importers to exporters of quality drugs has been made possible by deploying initiatives that strengthened our quality management systems and embedded a culture of quality within the organisation. Increasingly, pharma companies are seeking newer avenues for expansion - biologics, therapeutic drug development and digital tools, but we are still lagging in incremental innovation, development of new molecular entities (NMEs) and active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) R&D.
India has some high-quality academic institutions; yet it is not a scientific or research power. For India to be fully successful as a global scientific and intellectual force, it needs research universities and industry-oriented research focus along with adequate policy/ infrastructure to drive commercialization of the research. We will need to highlight these areas.
The Government has been providing an enabling environment by launching notable initiatives to promote indigenous manufacturing of API and formulations, production linked incentive scheme to boost manufacturing of critical API/key starting materials, promotion of generic medicines by the Jan Aushadi initiative. These interventions are step in the right direction and their timely and effective implementation will help in building competitiveness of the Indian pharma industry.
Unlocking the future growth pillars: While there is no inherent lack of talent and workforce, the lack of a stable pricing and policy environment limits the growth of the sector. All the stakeholders involved must work collaboratively on developing a plan to produce economically feasible drugs and products which are supported by proper clinical trials and regulatory decision.
The pandemic highlighted the need for a robust Indian manufacturing base of products. Pharmaceutical pricing is an important consideration for all countries, especially in the context of manufacturing essential medicines, affordable to the entire population. The Government support through introduction of new initiatives and policies has helped create an enabling environment for R&D, manufacturing, and marketing of safe, quality and affordable medical products.
Indian companies now have an unprecedented opportunity to partner with global players across a wide range of activities, from contract manufacturing and licensing arrangements to franchising and joint venture opportunities.
Today, digitisation is causing a quantum shift in India’s health care ecosystem. It has also played a crucial role in bringing about operational efficiencies, managing supplies and enabled more meaningful and convenient engagements with stakeholders. From a value-add point of view, we see digital as a tool that will empower every stakeholder in the healthcare ecosystem.
The unfolding of the consumerisation story in India has revealed a paradigm shift in mindset from illness to wellness and self-care among patients. Pharma companies need to play a significant role in this curative-behavioural change by equipping patients with the right set of tools, devices and treatment options to guide from awareness to their adherence journey.
In the patient funnel, diagnostics is another key area the industry need to prioritise. Building solutions around the care continuum from easy and early diagnostics to efficient treatment and monitoring should be focused on. Apart from that, funding innovative methods to bring about newer and better opportunities for healthcare management should be encouraged at all levels.
Driving innovation across the ecosystem: From an overall innovation perspective, pharma/health care companies are looking at innovation from various lenses to play a more valuable role within the healthcare ecosystem moving forward. As an industry that has the patient at the centre of ‘care’, we can improve access to health care with the use of analytics and big data. The industry can shift the paradigm of innovation, creating optimised business models to benefit patients and pharma companies alike.
It is time for us to take note of advanced tools and emerging technologies powered by advanced analytics, robotics and automation that have the potential to revolutionise every element of pharma-manufacturing within the next few years. Adoption of Industry 4.0 is enabling a revolution in manufacturing, with pharmaceutical companies globally adopting technologies such robotics, augmented/virtual reality with great success. Touchless factories are paving the way for a future-fit organisation with minimised scope for errors, increased throughput and reduced timelines
India must also increase its thrust on developing new and improved drugs, biologics, medical devices, diagnostics, and vaccines. This will provide further impetus to the quality, accessibility and affordability of medicinal products through innovation and stringent regulatory supervision.
There is a strong need to create collaborative synergy between academia, industry, research laboratories and regulators along with a conducive policy framework to foster innovations. Through the collective effort of the stakeholders and supportive policy changes, India is well poised to position itself as a provider of safe and high quality medicines across the globe.
(The article has been authored by Samina Hamied, executive vice-chairperson, Cipla and vice-president, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance.)