The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the pride of our nation. It is the third-largest in the world by volume, India having exported pharmaceuticals worth Rs. 1.8 lakh crore in the financial year 2020- 21. Buoyed by the pharmaceutical industry’s performance over the years, the Government is striving to further improve the infrastructural facilities of the sector with the goal of making India a global leader. Atmanirbhar Bharat policy of the Government has just put these efforts in speed mode with the aim of giving a fillip to indigenous manufacturing besides promoting and developing indigenously manufactured drugs and medicines.
In accordance with the Government’s goals for the sector, the Department of Pharmaceuticals recently issued the guidelines of the scheme “Strengthening of Pharmaceutical Industry (SPI)” with a financial outlay of Rs. 500 crore for a period of five years from 2021-22 to 2025-26. The aim is to strengthen the existing infrastructure facilities, upgrade the production facilities of SMEs and MSMEs, and meet national and international regulatory standards, among other things.
Going further, the Government has announced schemes like the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for the promotion of domestic manufacturing of critical Key Starting Materials (KSMs), Drug Intermediates (DIs), and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) for the pharmaceutical industry in India. The total financial outlay of the scheme is Rs. 6,940 crore and the tenure is from FY 2020-2021 to FY 2029-30. There is another Production Linked Incentive Scheme for Pharmaceuticals with a total financial outlay of Rs. 15,000 crore and tenure from FY 2020- 2021 to FY 2028-29 to enhance manufacturing capabilities and incentivise product diversification to high-value goods.
Assistance to Pharmaceutical Industry for Common Facilities (API-CF) is yet another scheme to support pharma clusters in creating common infrastructure facilities. Pharmaceutical Technology Upgradation Assistance Scheme (PTUAS) too has also been approved to support SME units for quality and technology upgradation. The Government is also providing financial assistance to the states for establishing three Bulk Drug Parks.
It may be noted that over the last two decades, the pharmaceutical industry has taken significant strides in improving public healthcare in India as well as around the world. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry was quick to mobilize its resources to take care of the supply chain disruptions and emerged as a reliable partner, ensuring an efficient supply of essential medicines to all the partner countries with a quick turnaround time. The pharmaceutical industry also invested heavily in R&D screening, treatment, and prevention of Covid-19 with the launch of indigenous testing kits, treatments, and vaccines.
Prior to 1970, the pharma market was dominated by foreign companies. However, with the introduction of the Indian Patents Act in 1970 and the Drug Policy in 1978, a new generation of entrepreneurs and scientists leveraged the opportunities provided by these regulations to build a huge industry. From 1970 to 1990, the pharmaceutical industry witnessed the entry of different domestic manufacturers into the market.
The impact of the growth of India’s pharmaceutical industry is for everyone to see. Owing to the increased access to affordable drugs, statistics like Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) have dropped by 36% between 1990 and 2016 while drug penetration has increased by 50% in India. It is because of the efforts of India’s pharmaceutical industry the country has now been declared polio-free.
Today, the Indian pharmaceutical industry accounts for 60% of global vaccine production and contributes 40% to 70% of the World Health Organisation (WHO) demand for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis as well as Bacillus Calmette–Guerin vaccines. India also delivers 90% of the WHO’s demand for the measles vaccine. The country provides for nearly 40% of all generics consumed in the US and 25% of all medicines supplied to the United Kingdom. No wonder, India has earned the right to be called the “pharmacy of the world”.