How did India Become the Pharmacy of the World?

Home to a 5000-year-old system of alternative medicine in Ayurveda, India is now ruling the world in generic allopathic medicines too.

“India meets about 50 percent of all of Africa’s demand for generic medicines, 40 percent of the USA’s need for generic medicine, and 25 percent of the UK’s requirement of all medicines” says Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The latest is the world’s first intranasal vaccine for Covid, manufactured in India. This is said to be more convenient and effective as it is said to strike the infection at its first point of contact in the nostrils.

Not just generic or affordable medicines, nearly 60 percent of global vaccines and 70 percent of the World Health Organisation’s vaccines for essential immunisation schemes are made by India.

India supplied over seven cr doses of COVID vaccine to 94 countries and 2 UN entities in the form of a grant, commercial export or through COVAX till 29th November 2021”, according to the Department of Health and Family Welfare press release. It started with Vaccine Maitri, with India catering to the needs of its neighborhood first. Starting from Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, as well as Mauritius and Seychelles, and after that to the Gulf, India supplied many vaccines to these countries out of goodwill at the time of need.

What led to the boom in Indian pharma?

India has the advantage of a skilled workforce available at a low cost which reduces the cost of mass production of pharmaceuticals in India A well-established manufacturing base is another asset that oils mass and rapid production of generic medicines. India is the only country with the most significant number of US-FDA-compliant pharma plants. This has boosted India’s share of pharmaceutical exports.

Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers could produce low-cost generic versions of drugs with patents from other countries, which later found big takers in the international market. This has made India the world’s leading source of affordable HIV medicines. The ability to produce newer HIV medicines as generics has been a feather in India’s cap.

Excellent R&D facilities have fuelled innovation and reverse engineering to manufacture low-cost vaccines. India is a leader in bringing affordable versions of expensive drugs worldwide. HIV drugs (Zidovudine) and life-saving cancer (Imatinib) are examples of how within a few years after their US launch, Indian companies rolled out affordable options.

The WHO announced HIV/AIDS as the number one killer in Africa in 1999. While the big giants of the global pharma industry were minting money by charging $ 10,000 per year per patient for antiretroviral drugs, for millions, it became unaffordable. Indian pharma industry became a savior by enabling the manufacturing and supply of HIV antiretroviral with a massive 99.99 percent price reduction.

The road to being a global ‘medical superpower’ has also earned the country a notable role in medical tourism. This industry is said to be around USD 9 billion, making India rank 10th in the Global Medical Tourism Index. “Over 20 lakh patients visit India every year from 78 countries for medical, wellness, and IVF treatments,” said the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman. The stark difference in the numbers tells the real story. Domestically, Indian pharma manufacturers had a share of nearly 5% in 1969, whereas now, Indian companies will hold over 85% of the Indian market by 2020.

The Indian pharmaceutical sector is assumed to grow to US$ 100 billion by 2025, and by 2030, a revenue of $ 120bn-130bn is expected. The PLI, or the production-linked incentive initiated by the Union government, has further promoted the manufacturing of drugs and essential medicines for the world. Budget 2023 also promotes research and development in the pharma sector, aiding the much sought-after demand of this industry. Before the budget, the US pharma industry recommended that the Union government release a policy for R&D in the pharma business. The Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitaraman, announced that” new programs will be taken up through various centers of excellence to promote R&D in the pharma industry.

Along with the allopathic drugs, the Ayush sector is increasingly gaining tremendous traction internationally, and this is all set to boost brand India as a global pharmacy in the world.

Richa Jain Kalra

Richa Jain Kalra is a seasoned editor who has been a leading news anchor on national television for over 18 years. She is a master communicator driven by the purpose of making a positive impact on society.

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