The pharmaceutical industry in India is the third-largest by volume across the world and the fourteenth largest in terms of value. For the year 2019-2020, the total annual turnover for the industry was INR 2, 89,998 crores and pharmaceutical exports were to the tune of INR 1, 46,260 crores. India exports medicines and drugs to nearly 206 countries with the United States being the largest export destination. It is also a leader in vaccine manufacturing and caters to more than 60% of the global vaccine demand.
In the recent Union Budget of 2022, the pharma industry of the country was recognised as the “sunrise sector” for India’s economy and is expected to grow threefold over the next decade. As per the Economic Survey of 2021-2022, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is expected to reach $65 billion by 2024. The massive growth of the industry can be contributed to the domestic manufacturers’ leadership in providing generic formulation to different markets worldwide.
Accelerating Growth amid the Challenges
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a major disruptor for different industries across the country including the pharmaceutical industry. While the pandemic exposed numerous infrastructural vulnerabilities and gaps, it also proved to be a catalyst for change. The challenges and adversities posed by Covid-19 provided the opportunity to modernise and transform the pharma industry to better cater to the needs of the population.
The urgent need to understand the Covid-19 virus as well as develop new vaccines and medicines created unparalleled learning opportunities. The pharmaceutical industry not only provided continuous medicines but also contributed significantly to preventive healthcare, quarantine facilities and sanitisation. It responded to the immediate challenges of the pandemic by evaluating the utilisation of available drugs and explored various innovative approaches to tackle the situation. The efforts of the industry coupled with the regulatory reforms initiated by the CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organization) resulted in fast permissions for clinical trials and even encouraged the approval of applications to import or produce drugs and vaccines for trials.
Other than that, Indian pharma companies developed strategic alliances with global pharma companies to provide better access to crucial drugs or new treatments for Covid-19 like Molnupiravir, Remdesivir among others. Under the Vaccine Maitri initiative, the government delivered more than 14.68 crores of vaccine doses to 97 countries. Amid these changes, a new trend of the development of vaccines through collaboration between government laboratories and private entrepreneurs has also been observed.
Opportunities for Further Growth in a Post-Pandemic World
With significant contributions toward generics, the pharmaceutical industry is all poised to further extend its R&D capabilities and offer cutting-edge products in a post-pandemic world. Here are some of the key areas that must be a focus for the industry to excel in the future:
Innovation and R&D: The industry needs to focus on innovation so as to move up the value chain. The Indian pharma industry requires a strong innovation pipeline with new product launches and molecular entities every year. To achieve the same, the industry is now entering the complex generics and specialised drugs market. The idea should be to enhance pharma’s significance in new drug development, biologics and innovations and on increasing capabilities in usage of technology, biological sciences and cell and gene therapy, with the core focus on patient needs.
Digital Transformation: Digital transformation is vital for enhanced patient care, greater transparency, cost-effectiveness, improved production and drug development. Latest technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), AR/VR, machine learning (ML) and additive manufacturing are helping pharma companies to improve the R&D process, conducting clinical tests in less time and adding innovation to the products as well as improving compliance and efficiencies in manufacturing.
Nurturing Collaborations: During the course of the pandemic, cohesive collaborations between academia, government and industry proved to be the key to promoting research initiatives. Integrated efforts, Regular feedback, sharing and constant dialogue between industry leaders and government authorities proved crucial during the pandemic and the same needs to continue in the future.
Agility to adapt must be the mantra for the pharma industry in sustaining its commitment to better patient care. India must also increase its focus on producing improved drugs, medical devices, biologics, diagnostics and vaccines. This will provide the much-needed impetus to the quality, affordability and accessibility of medical products through innovation and strict regulatory supervision.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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