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The Indian pharma industry: Shaping a healthier world

May 08,2024

India stands at the brink of a transformative era, with the pharmaceutical industry poised as a key player in shaping the country’s future. Driven by a dedication to groundbreaking innovation and supported by government initiatives aimed at achieving universal health coverage (UHC), the industry aims to exceed the $450 billion milestone by 2047.

India’s pharmaceutical industry is a global leader, not just in terms of sheer production volume but also in its profound impact on global health and innovation. Since India’s independence, this sector has evolved into a powerhouse that caters not only to domestic healthcare needs but also plays a significant role in supplying affordable medicines worldwide. Among other things, the industry has played a huge role in the consistent decline in communicable diseases in India, the eradication of a few deadly diseases, and increasing life expectancy.

The Indian pharmaceutical industry encompasses a vast network of 3,000 drug companies and 10,500 manufacturing units. Approximately 500 API manufacturers also play a significant role and contribute around 8 per cent to the global API industry. Government initiatives such as allowing 100 per cent FDI through automatic routes for greenfield pharmaceutical projects, implementing the PLI scheme for Key Starting Materials (KSMs) and APIs to enhance manufacturing capacity, strengthening infrastructure facilities, and adopting robust pricing policies, represent pivotal steps in the right direction.

Let’s take a look at the positive impact and contributions of India’s pharmaceutical industry.

India has earned the moniker of ‘pharmacy of the world’ due to its role in supplying cost-effective generic medicines globally. According to the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), India exported pharmaceuticals worth $25.39 billion in the financial year 2022-23, recording a growth of 3.25 per cent over the previous year. The ever-increasing exports showcase India’s pivotal position in the global pharmaceutical trade.

The industry’s focus on generic drug manufacturing has significantly improved access to essential medicines, especially in developing countries. For instance, India is a major supplier of antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS treatment, providing affordable options that have helped millions access life-saving treatment. At the turn of the century, India’s pharmaceutical industry blazed a trail by bringing down the cost of fighting HIV/AIDS to about a dollar a day from annual costs of $10000+ that western pharma majors were pushing. It remains one of the greatest success stories of India’s pharmaceutical industry. Over the years, the industry has gone on to become the biggest supplier of TB drugs, and an array of vaccines.

India’s pharmaceutical companies are not just generic drug manufacturers but also hubs of research and innovation. With a growing number of patents and investments in research, the industry is at the forefront of developing new drugs and treatments. During the first nine months of 2023, Indian pharmaceutical companies secured a notable increase in Abbreviated New Drugs Applications (ANDA) approvals for the US FDA. Within this time frame, the US FDA approved a total of 618 ANDAs marking a rise from the 570 ANDAs approved during the same period in the previous year. Among the 618 approvals, Indian companies and their subsidiaries accounted for a significant share of 284 ANDA approvals, constituting 46 per cent of the total approvals. The high number of approvals highlights the industry’s innovative capabilities.

The pharmaceutical sector is a significant contributor to India’s economy, employing millions directly and indirectly. The industry’s growth has led to the establishment of research centres, manufacturing units, and a robust supply chain, boosting economic development in various regions of the country.

Source: Healthworld

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