HEADLINE: India - a force to be reckoned with?The pharmaceutical industry is one example of a truly worldwide market, with many of the largest players extending their operations to the four corners of the globe in a bid to improve their products and boost market share.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has offices in countries far afield as Russia, Argentina and Brazil, while Pfizer has operations in places including Venezuela, Pakistan and Mexico.

One place that has seemingly been overlooked by pharma firms in the past is India, with businesses instead opting to focus operations elsewhere rather than tapping in to the resources available in the country. However, this trend seems to be changing, as a growing number of pharma businesses are starting to take advantage of the benefits India has to offer.

Last month, GSK signed a deal with Dr Reddy's Laboratories – a generic drug manufacturer based in the country – that will see the Indian company manufacture medicines, which will be given GSK branding and sold in areas such as Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

The move is part of GSK's efforts to increase its presence in emerging markets through the use of generic drugs and, according to the Times, is the latest in a series of agreements that have been made with companies in China, South Africa and Egypt.

"This is another significant step forward in our strategy to grow and diversify GSK's business in emerging markets," the firm's Abbas Hussain stated, adding that demand for branded pharmaceuticals in these countries is increasing due to rises in population and economic prosperity.

Vice chairman and chief executive officer of Dr Reddy's GV Prasad said that the deal will enable the Indian company to "fully realise" its potential. "We hope to take our purpose of providing affordable and innovative medicines to a much wider population through this partnership," he remarked.

And this deal is by no means an isolated case. According to India's Business Standard, agreements involving Ranbaxy, Sun Pharma and Cipla have all taken place recently. "Such deals are a win-win situation for both Big Pharma and generic companies. Multinational companies enjoy big brand equity and have extensive sales and marketing set-ups, which will help the generics players to tap new markets and business," vice president of research at Angel Broking Sarabjit Kaur Nagra told pharmaques.biz
In a recent interview, Baron Ajit Shetty, head of Janssen Pharmaceutical, went so far as to suggest that the pharma market could soon rival the IT sector as one of the dominant industries in the country.

"What we need to figure out is how to leverage India's capabilities for the global market," he explained, noting that conducting clinical trials that will influence global – rather than just national – product development is one step that needs to be taken.

"Indian companies know they can't survive on the generic model alone forever. So once they have a serious self-interest in protecting patents, that will be the tipping-point," he predicted.

The growing interest in India's pharma industry from multinational companies – even if it is merely seen as a method of developing generic drugs for developing markets at present – suggests that the country's position on the global pharma stage may begin to grow in the coming years. If, as Mr Shetty suggests, companies based in India can expand beyond simply providing generics to multinationals in the future, the country could become a key player in the worldwide pharma industry in the months and years to come.