View: An inter-connected pharma world

India has reinforced its resilience in these challenging times especially in the Pharma sector. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the nation has demonstrated its ability as a strong hub of affordable manufacturing base for vaccines and other critical pharmaceutical drugs. Currently pegged at USD 41 billion, Indian pharmaceuticals market is expected to reach USD 65 billion by 2024 and to USD120 billion by 2030. Employing 2.7 million people, directly and indirectly, across 12,000 firms, India remains a champion at formulation development. Known as the ‘pharmacy of the world’, India supplies over 50% of global demand for various vaccines, 40% of generic demand in the US and 25% of all medicines in the UK. On the other hand, India imports 60-80% of its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and intermediaries from China.

Vaccines manufactured in India—are dependent on international, primarily US-based, ingredient supply chains. For example, Covid-19 vaccines require around 360 ingredients to be sourced from abroad. India sources vaccine ingredients ranging from mixing bags to waste bags, cryogenic sterile tubes to single-use buffer bags, hydrochloric acid, acetone, sodium citrate and antifoam. More than two hundred items are sourced from the US, around hundred from Germany, fourteen from the Netherlands, other raw ingredients from Sweden, Singapore, Poland, Japan, France and Switzerland. For a finished dose of Remdesivir, the supply chain is dependent on multiple geographies as it procures raw material and consumables from China, Germany and USA. Therefore, Pharmaceuticals is intensively interconnected & interdependent sector globally with considerable dependence on the international supply chain.

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Since India has the reputation of delivering ‘quality product at low-cost’, the vaccine technology, patents, knowhow and ingredients were made available to India so that vaccines are manufactured in a cost efficient manner. In the last few months, Ministries of Pharmaceuticals, Health, External affairs along with Niti Aayog, Indian missions overseas have been pillars of support to the Pharma sector with regular, daily review meetings. Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) issued emergency approvals on various research proposals for bringing medicines to the market. Additionally, Government ensured India’s resolve for self-reliance by introducing various schemes under PLI to promote domestic manufacturing of KSMs and APIs.

India’s two important initiatives to overcome the scourge of the COVID-pandemic were – firstly to make vaccines widely available, and secondly, along with South Africa seeking temporary waiver from the implementation and enforcement of four forms of intellectual property rights (IPRs) at the World Trade Organization (WTO). These twin initiatives accentuate a key message-medical products must be treated as global public goods.

In these unprecedented times “None of us will be safe until everyone is safe”. As a responsible global citizen, India provided aid and assistance to more than 150 countries to help them combat the COVID-19 waves by providing a multitude of various pharmaceutical drugs such as Azithromycin, Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and vaccines. It supplied 66.4 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to 95 countries under the Vaccine Maitri initiative and pledged USD 15 Million for the Global Vaccine Alliance, GAVI 2021-25 program.

Meanwhile, the tide turned. India is grappling with the fierce second wave and assistance began to flow from all over the world. A number of countries are now helping and supporting India which ensured emergency transports of medical aid and medical grade oxygen, concentrators, ventilators, etc. which clearly demonstrates the interdependent world of the Pharma sector. Pharmaceutical global supply chain is very complex and specialized therefore It is imperative to stay globally connected. Greater cooperation would enable equitable access to all. The globally inter-dependent pharma sector, sharing a collective responsibility should strive towards augmenting production of vaccines for a healthier world tomorrow.

The writer is with Bhartia Group & is co-founder of PAFI


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