Hyderabad: Despite phenomenal growth forecasts for the pharma industry, the leading pharma CEO‘s voiced their concerns about shifting the narrative from volume to a value-based approach to make India a more formidable force in drug production across the globe. Also assert that innovation, greater access to funding, regulatory reforms will be key for the pharma companies to tap global and domestic potential and to deliver a novel drug to the world in the decade ahead, informed the captains of the pharma industry. In a power packed CEO Conclave Panel Discussion at the 20th edition of BioAsia 2023, hosted by Government of Telangana the experts discussed the future driver and what is next anticipated for India to enhance its pharmaceutical capabilities.
KT Rama Rao, IT and Commerce Minister, Telangana, was the Guest to chair the conversation. When Rao was asked about the way forward for India in terms of reimbursements and public-private partnerships to mitigate the growing healthcare needs despite global challenges at the moment, taking into account the US healthcare system as well, he responded by saying rolling out incentives and reimbursements becomes a challenge and stakeholders involved in high-risk capital can be incentivised. Furthermore, he went on to talk about the creation of an ecosystem to bring about multilateral collaborations, and a more Indianised approach to drug development to deliver lower costs as opposed to trying to conquer the world.
When the panellists were asked about the global headwinds and implications for global growth in an era of high interest rates, to which Satish Reddy, Chairman, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, replied, saying most of the Indian companies are diversifying to other countries where opportunities are anticipated. “Indian companies will continue to adapt and innovate into newer areas, especially when we talk about products,” he said, adding that innovation is the key to staying relevant in the long term.
Reddy elucidated that to enable the ecosystem, a lot needs to be done, including a regulatory revamp and more focus on academic institutions. “We are missing the bus if we don’t act for change,” he underlined. “Instead of scratching the surface, it’s time for India to get into action to really start going on with this.”
Asserting that, to stand apart from China, Hari S Bhartia, Founder and Co-Chairman, Jubilant Bhartia Group, said, “If you look at innovations and some of the products coming into the US market, the early stage work is either done in India or China. Because these two countries are leaders in chemistry,” and India has an advantage in pharmaceuticals due to its talent capacity and supply chain resilience.
Glenn Saldanha, Chairman and MD, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, talked about fixing the gaps, especially in the higher end of the spectrum, which he defines as pure innovation, particularly in the biological side. He said, “India has a long way to go whether it’s the CAR-T, bi-specific, multi-specific, or mRNA technologies, the rest of the world is pursuing this very aggressively.” He listed out a few things that India has to do extremely well in the next decade, including industry-academic partnerships, fixing the regulatory systems, and building an ecosystem to upskill the talent so that people who have left the country can come back.
Putting the focus on quality, Nandini Piramal, Chairperson, Piramal Pharma, said that the Indian pharmaceutical industry needs to work on quality and that it’s achievable. She said, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other global regulators have started re-auditing everyone and are going to become tougher. They are raising the bar in terms of quality, process, and digitisation.” She added that in the future, the quality of drugs would be critical.
Speaking about the need for partnerships and how they would aid in acting without restraint. Mahima Datla, Managing Director, Biological E Ltd., “It’s historically proven when it comes to novel products. It can certainly be a way to address the capital and risk issues. Partnerships are going to be extremely crucial for vaccines, biosimilars, or therapeutics.” According to Datla, partnerships are increasing manyfold, and the difference would lie in whether those partnerships would result in more access locally or if they would be confined to the global access opportunities.
Apart from envisaging the prospects of the Indian pharmaceutical industry in the coming years, the panel also pondered upon overcoming the uncertainty of global markets, further strengthening presence in the biosimilars market, and conceptualising mRNA technology for India and emerging markets. The CEOs called it a fantastic opportunity for India to step ahead exponentially and be one of the leading service providers, especially in the value chain.