We witnessed a collective global response to COVID-19 pandemic achieved by, amongst other important elements, the fast-tracking of ‘technology transfers’ (the sharing of how to manufacture certain vaccines from vaccine providers to contract manufacturers, around the globe) and value of collaborations/partnerships.
The onset of pandemic brought to light the importance of collaboration and partnership not just between governments and companies, but also amongst companies in the industry. A number of deals were struck between local companies and MNCs to bring in innovation and increase supply of lifesaving medicines. Leading U.S. drug maker entered into a non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements with multiples local companies for its patented product, used in the treatment on COVID-19. Similarly, another leading U.S. pharma company entered into a licensing agreement with Indian pharma companies for its patented product, which is an antiviral drug used for treating COVID-19 infection. Amidst meeting the domestic needs during the pandemic, by 2021, India also ensured supply of medicines to 123 partner countries and exported a total of 587 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccines across the world, living up to is name of being the ‘pharmacy of the world’.
On the technology transfer front in India specifically, there is this multilevel partnership which is a significant example of why technology transfers and collaborative thinking is essential in the times to come if we have to respond strongly to the gaps as we see in the healthcare ecosystem currently. Similarly, multiple other companies have entered into deals with local companies for manufacturing & distribution of their COVID-19 vaccines. Taking our cue, we all must continue to propel innovation and innovative approach to tackle the disease burden.
Pharma companies have the wherewithal to augment a solution led approach to most of the areas where there is a felt need of enhancement in both communicable and non-communicable disease areas. Access and adherence to treatment for many non-communicable diseases was impacted during the pandemic, cancer was one of them. According to a prominent study conducted in December 2020, there was a drop of 25 per cent in the weekly patient load due to COVID-19. Out of the 50 oncologists surveyed in public and private practice, 70 per cent of the physicians advised their patients to postpone the appointments. This was mostly done for older patients, routine follow-up patients, patients with non-aggressive stage of cancer and patients with respiratory comorbidities.
Many other aspects of cancer care were either postponed or dropped during these times. It is clear from these developments that there is a virtual ecosystem of care that was needed to ensure a smooth interaction between patients and HCPs and this is now prioritized by many healthcare delivery partners and pharmaceutical companies to be able to save lives. We saw multiple new age solutions creating an online ecosystem for diagnosis, treatment and wellness of patients. Such initiatives saw a whooping success and has indicatively touched over +3 lakh lives over a short period.
‘Patient First’ being the motto of healthcare providers, we need to chart out a plan to feed the future of all the new capabilities that emerged during the lockdown and enhance the point of care with sustainable solutions!
The author is Chair, FICCI Pharmaceutical Committee and Managing Director, AstraZeneca Pharma India Limited