At the Organization of Pharmaceuticals Producers of India (OPPI), the association representing the research-based pharmaceutical companies in India, putting the patient at the center of all that they do is part of their DNA. On the occasion of their 51st Annual Day celebrations, experts met to discuss the need to create an effective innovative ecosystem that can make healthcare available and affordable for all.
“India needs talents and, more importantly, protection.”
Shailesh Ayyangar, Sanofi
On Friday, 13 October 2017 the OPPI celebrated the release of a new publication, The DNA of Care, at the association’s 51st Annual Day. This book, which was presented at the Taj Lands End Hotel in Mumbai, is the result of close collaboration between policy experts and patient groups which came together to ascertain and enhance a more patient-centric approach and promote a supportive healthcare ecosystem in India. Specifically, the last chapter of The DNA of Care focuses on the future of healthcare in India and has been exclusively contributed to by QuintilesIMS. To this purpose, a panel discussion moderated by the seasoned healthcare journalist and chief editor at CNBC, Vikas Dandekar, took place. The panelists were renowned healthcare experts who discussed the challenges, opportunities and major hot topics in the Indian pharmaceutical industry.
Outgoing OPPI president, Dr. Shailesh Ayyangar, current VP South Asia at Sanofi, commented on and evaluated the three main objectives that he set himself when becoming president in 2013. First and foremost, he emphasized that the pharma industry has to deliver tangible results to ensure no human being in India has difficulties or feels left behind when it comes to accessing healthcare. He admitted that “while there is still a long journey to go,” he is proud to see that “there is cooperation between the various stakeholders.” Secondly, Dr. Ayyangar highlighted the crucial importance of having a trustful relationship with patients and improving the image of the pharmaceutical industry by engaging with healthcare professionals and patients in order to understand their needs. Lastly, a big priority is to create an innovative ecosystem for India where companies can thrive and develop innovative medicines for the Indian population.
Dr. Ayyangar expanded on the last point, pointing out that in order to foster innovation, “India needs talents and, more importantly, protection.” This protection includes the protection of local production of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API), for instance, as currently the Indian pharmaceutical industry is dependent on imports for many key intermediates and APIs from a single low-cost outsourcing nation, China. Furthermore, stringent guidelines have led to a sharp decline in clinical trials over recent years. The number of clinical trial approvals by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) declined from 500 in 2010 to 84 in 2016.
Another debated aspect throughout the conference was the increase in regulatory scrutiny by the US FDA. In order to export their products to the US and worldwide, a harmonization on quality standards for Indian companies with various regulators, such as the FDA, is a key requirement to penetrate foreign markets. Suspension of production in sites until inspection has resulted in growth from US exports coming down from 14.14 percent in FY16 to four percent in FY17.
The economic disparity in the country, which makes access to medicine a major obstacle for large sections of the population, as well as pricing, was also given special focus. When asked about the current status of patient care in India, Gautam Khanna, CEO of Hinduja Hospital, explained that “most of the costs go to the screening, diagnostics and eventually the treatment of the disease,” and pointing out that “preventive care is, therefore, crucial to the sustainability of the healthcare system.”
Only one percent of the population in India has health insurance and many families take loans; thereby adding to the out of pocket expenditure of patients. Many families take loans to pay back healthcare bills and this is mainly due to lack of knowledge. In addition to this, there are currently no national standards by which physicians, nurses, pharmacists and hospitals are trained, meaning that a sustainable plan that addresses training of medical professionals is needed. From doctors to dietitians and from nurses to healthcare administrators, India needs to have trained medical professionals in abundance, perhaps through building more government colleges to increase the current workforce. While it is a difficult path, industry and other stakeholders are willing to go the extra mile in India to ensure innovative treatments reach every patient in the country. Testament to this was a video showcasing patient journeys towards their cure, demonstrating the good work industry is keeping up with.
At the end of the half-day conference the following awards were granted. MSD was awarded the OPPI HR Excellence Award and OPPI Diversity and Inclusion Award for 2017. Bilcare Ltd received the OPPI Best Vendor Award 2017 for anti-counterfeiting solution providers and packaging material suppliers. Shire got the OPPI Sales Force Excellence Award 2017. The OPPI Sales Force Excellence Award 2017 went to MSD for building ‘quality of voice’ in its cardiovascular & metabolics teams. The winners of the OPPI Marketing Excellence Awards 2017 were Qilib-Galderma for new products & Trajenta-Boehringer Ingelheim for existing products.
Writer: Luca Nardini