- What strategies should the pharmaceutical industry and other stakeholders adopt and implement in the future to address drug shortages, whether caused by Covid or otherwise?
Unlike the first wave, we saw a sharp increase in cases in the second wave due to the high transmission rate of mutant viruses. The pharmaceutical industry has prioritized building production capacity and working with stakeholders to contain the adverse effects of the second wave.
As the world anticipates a possible third wave, India’s pharmaceutical industry is preparing and taking a proactive approach to tackle it. Along with strategies to accelerate the production of essential drugs against covid-19, collaborating with all relevant stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry supply chain, from coordination at central level, state to government. district. We are the second most populous country in the world, which is why the inventory of essential drugs and vaccines against Covid-19 is necessary to meet the high demand.
In addition, collaboration within the industry is expected to continue to accelerate the production of Covid-19 drugs and vaccines. We need to focus on the agility of production and supply chain operations as the demand situation is unpredictable in the Civid environment.
How vital is the collaboration between global and Indian pharmaceutical companies now that several Indian companies are bringing in drugs to build a strong Covid portfolio?
The pandemic is a global challenge that requires a global response. The convergence of global knowledge and expertise along with the scale and reach of India’s pharmaceutical industry will help India in its fight against the pandemic. Several Indian pharmaceutical companies have partnered with global companies to speed up the process of manufacturing and distributing drugs. For example, several Indian pharmaceutical companies such as Cipla, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Hetero Labs, Jubilant Lifesciences had signed voluntary licensing agreements with Gilead Lifesciences for Remdesivir. Eli Lilly’s baricitinib which is currently manufactured in India has entered into a collaboration with Cipla, Lupine, Sun Pharma. MSD’s molnupiravir is licensed by Cipla, Dr. Reddy’s, Emcure, Hetero Labs and Sun Pharma.
Indian companies are working with global partners to supply Covid-19 vaccines, for example Serum Institute is working with AstraZeneca and also in agreement with Novavax. The voluntary licensing agreement between the companies is likely to increase vaccine availability in the coming months. Some of the examples for this case are Dr. Reddy with RFID and Gamaleya National Research Center, and Biological E with Johnson & Johnson. These collaborations are fundamental for a better availability of vaccines.
What initiatives are Indian companies taking to focus more on innovation and R&D in order to optimize their future potential?
The rapidly changing landscape requires rapid action on technological advancements and innovation. The Covid-19 has highlighted the potential of the Indian pharmaceutical industry to transform itself into a hub of innovation in the years to come. Indian pharmaceutical companies are striving to expand their product portfolio to introduce innovative drugs to manufacture generics to meet the growing patient base globally.
The industry is channeling resources into strengthening the technological infrastructure and upgrading the workforce to meet all challenges regarding manufacturing and distribution. In addition, it is important to build an R&D culture to build an innovation ecosystem in India. R&D capacities need to be strengthened at all levels of the value chain to develop a fully functioning innovation cycle and regulations need to be streamlined to encourage large-scale industry.
Based on your information on the second wave of Covid-19, how do you see Indian pharma making a significant breakthrough forward?
Despite the uncertain increase in demand during the second wave, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has worked continuously to ensure the availability of life-saving drugs. Companies manufacturing essential Covid-19 drugs have increased production to meet the needs of patients. Going forward, the industry will respond quickly to such a dynamic situation by utilizing underutilized capacity and making supply chains efficient and agile to ensure easy access to medicines.
Learning the lessons of Wave 2, the industry is proactively preparing and intends to be ahead in terms of drug availability and facilitating collaboration among stakeholders. Storage, the constitution of an inventory of essential drugs and the strengthening of infrastructure in terms of hospital beds, the supply of oxygen will be important in our preparation for the probable challenges in the event of a third wave of Covid-19. In addition, it will be important to focus on appropriate behavior and Covid safety measures to minimize the spread of the pandemic due to high unpredictability.
How can AtmaNirbhar Bharat help the Indian pharmaceutical industry? Why and how should Indian pharmaceutical companies minimize their dependence on API imports?
For the pharmaceutical industry, the idea of Aatmanirbhar Bharat goes beyond self-sufficiency. In addition to accelerating domestic manufacturing, this will facilitate innovation and expand the global export base to create “Brand India” in the global pharmaceutical space.
India plays a central role in providing essential medicines to the world while making distribution more efficient and responsive in the country. India’s pharmaceutical industry, also known as “the pharmacy of the world”, has managed to meet national needs while supplying 40% of the demand for generics in the United States and a quarter of that in Europe. The government has taken active steps by releasing PLI 1.0 and 2.0 programs to advance the AtmaNirbhar program for the pharmaceutical industry. These initiatives will be important to build on the strength of the Indian pharmaceutical industry and be a reliable supplier of high quality affordable medicines worldwide for the benefit of patients.