The US$ 38 billion Indian pharmaceutical industry has played a pivotal role in ensuring access to innovative new therapies for patients in the country while helping develop India as a destination of global manufacturing and a source for quality affordable drugs for the world.
As healthcare providers look to our industry to provide new solutions to both existing diseases and emerging healthcare challenges, the industry is responding with speed and responsibility. Today, India increasingly features in the first wave of countries where new drugs are made accessible to patients and providers. With it, a significant impetus too on the availability of scientific information that helps our providers stay at the cutting edge of new medical science.
The industry clearly is responding in a spirit of partnership to major health priorities of the government too, such as Universal Immunization, Ayushman Bharat, the country’s fight against Antimicrobial Resistance, and encouraging grassroot innovations in healthcare to address pressing national priorities.
These proud achievements underscore the need of a framework of partnership and trust that will allow the industry, the providers and the policy makers to move forth in synergy and truly fulfil the ambitions that our public health program and all its stakeholders have set out to achieve.
This framework can best be summed up in 3Cs – Consistency, Collaboration and Care. Together, these can lay the grounds for unprecedented breakthroughs that can truly change the lives of the millions of patients who depend on all of us to get better and stay healthy.
The pharma industry is not much different from many others, in that we thrive on Consistency
Consistent policies and implementation are vital for the pharma industry to progress. Consistency leads to predictability which, in-turn, allows investment to be made with confidence and plans pursued to fruition.
India is currently amid revising its essential medicines list. With two Standing Committees determining essentiality and pricing respectively, it is even more essential that we keep to the principles that have been established and tested and provide the industry with every opportunity to participate and co-develop these vital frameworks that have a fundamental impact on our ability to operate.
Similarly, on Intellectual Property (IP), while the Government has made significant efforts to expedite patent approval processes and implement training programs to enhance patent application examination, approval and enforcement; much more needs to be done. We need to ensure that grant of patents is not unjustifiably held up due to the current pre-grant processes and that gaps in enforcement are bridged by providing all stakeholders with a transparent ‘patent information system’.
The second C is Collaboration, and there is no better time than today for the industry to collaborate
2019 has been a year of rich examples of how the government and industry have collaborated to make a real difference – from the implementation of Trade Margin Rationalization, the amendments to Clinical Trials rules that make it easier for innovative therapies to be launched in India and the Industry-Government dialogue that the Department of Pharmaceuticals has instituted. The most recent recognition of Para 19 revision of prices for certain NLEM drugs to provide relief to the industry that was faced with extraordinary losses is an example of this patient and industry friendly environment.
Today, Ayushman Bharat offers an unprecedented opportunity for government – industry collaboration. A program that sets the way for a long-cherished goal of Universal Healthcare must be enriched by such collaborations. In the National Health Authority, the Industry and Healthcare providers see a partner that is proactive, creative, forward looking and determined to positively impact the lives of those who are most vulnerable. The industry must extend its support to this program by making it possible for all our innovative therapies to be available to the beneficiaries of AB-PMJAY. Given that we all seek to ensure that any patient who can benefit from our therapies is able to access them, there is no program more powerful than Ayushman Bharat to help realize this ambition.
The last, and most important is Care – by putting the patient at the center of all we do
Today, there is an opportunity for the industry to stand together with the patient at the center and truly make a difference. The Ayushman Bharat program gives us an opportunity to ensure that millions of patients under the care of this program can get the same quality and standard of care that any other patient in India, and even the world, gets. We also have an opportunity to revitalize the Jan Aushadhi program to make it even more robust and patient friendly. We have an opportunity to align our regulatory systems with the best in the world if India takes up a full membership of the International Council of Harmonization – which will further expedite the launch of new therapies in the country.
Several important policies are being revisited by the government. If we keep the patient at the center, we can truly make a difference. We have an opportunity right now to make meaningful changes to the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act such that the private and not-for-profit sector can also raise awareness on vaccine preventable disease. We can make meaningful changes to the Rare Disease Policy, such that patients who may be fewer in number but equally deserving of the highest quality of care are ably supported by the Government.
This is the start of a new decade. New opportunities and equally, new expectations that patients have from all of us. When we work together with consistency, collaboration and care, not only will we attract investments into this vibrant sector, create employment, build skills and bring global admiration and respect to India, we will truly serve our fellow citizens to the fullest of our capacity.
The author is Chair, FICCI Pharma Committee & Managing Director, Pfizer Limited