Healthcare is one of the priority areas of the UPA government. Major commitment is to ensure availability of life-saving essential drugs at reasonable prices. At the same time, there is an urgent need to step up expenditure on R&D for long term sustainability and to maintain an edge at the global level – says Vilas Paswan , Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers 

The Indian pharmaceutical sector is growing at about 12% in the past couple of years, faster than the overall economy and the manufacturing sector. The turnover of Indian pharmaceutical industry is estimated at $17.5 billion; comprising a domestic market of $11.5 billion and exports worth $6 billion.

It globally ranks fourth in terms of volume and 13th in terms of value. India contributes around 22% of the global generic drug market in terms of value. The growth in the industry can be attributed to an increase in income, giving people greater access to healthcare and efforts by the government to increase health spending from the earlier 0.9% of GDP to over 1% now through schemes like the National Rural Health Mission and the ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna’.

The latter will provide health insurance cover of Rs 30,000 a year for poor families in the next five years. Another noticeable feature of the industry is its increasing acquisitions abroad.

Healthcare is one of the priority areas of the UPA government. It finds a prominent place in the National Common Minimum Programme of the government. One of the major objectives of the government is to raise public spending on healthcare from nearly 1% to at least 2-3% of the GDP over the next few years.

Another major commitment is to ensure availability of life-saving essential drugs at reasonable prices. The very mention of bringing reasonability in prices means that the government presumes that prevailing prices are not reasonable. This view has also been supported by the Supreme Court’s order directing the government to bring essential drugs under price control. Therefore, the effort of the UPA government is oriented towards making prices of essential drugs reasonable and affordable.

Therefore, price control continues to be an important function of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemcials. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) the government agency to administer drug price control has been effectively performing its role in controlling prices of specified drugs. The government is working towards strengthening NPPA and creating awareness among consumers. The performance of NPPA in the past three years has been much more effective than its performance since its inception. In the past three years, NPPA has fixed 41% of bulk drug prices, 49.5% of total formulation prices, 70% scheduled formulation pack prices. And overall, all prices reduced for 52.5% of the scheduled formulation packs.

We fully appreciate the challenges faced by the industry on account of several factors domestic as well as international. Growing competition in domestic as well as export markets is putting pressure on prices. At the same time, there is an urgent need to step up expenditure on R&D for long-term sustainability and to maintain an edge at the global level.

Many pharma players are putting a much greater focus on drug discovery today and several new drugs are in various stages of clinical trials. The government would like to fully support the efforts of industry in this regard.

Adequate availability of trained manpower is very important for the industry. For this purpose, in addition to the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) in Mohali, the government has decided to establish six more NIPERs in Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Hazipur, Guwahati and Rae Barelli. Out of this, four NIPERS have been started during the current year in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Hajipur.

India’s strength in terms of generics is now well recognised. We have to further strengthen it. At the same time, we have now to build our strength in drug discovery and drug development. This will sustain the growth of industry in the long run and enable India to emerge as a global leader in the pharma sector. It will also help in better tackling of health challenges not only of the country but also of other developing countries, where improving access to medicines is a big challenge.

We are sure that using all its capabilities, the industry will be able to turn challenges into opportunities and accelerate its pace in attaining global leadership role very soon. The government would continue to act as a facilitator and catalyst to the industry in attaining this position.