Bold Ambitions

The summit, attended in person by PharmaBoardroom, was permeated by a mood of confidence. Industry and government stakeholders alike seemed keen to work together to propel India up the innovation value chain and secure greater access to cutting-edge medicines at home.

The conference’s key-themes, as captured in the OPPI/EY Parthenon report, ‘Reimagining Pharma and Healthcare for India@100’, were:

  • Fast-forward 2047: Envisioning healthcare 25 years into the future, contemplating ground-breaking innovations and strategies to overcome healthcare challenges.
  • Moving from Volume-Based to Value-Based Healthcare: Emphasising the imperative shift towards patient-centric care and outcomes-driven models, ensuring quality and efficacy in healthcare delivery.
  • Ease of Doing Business: Mapping the Journey towards India@100: Fostering an enabling ecosystem through collaborative efforts between government, industry, academia, and other stakeholders to propel India towards global leadership in healthcare.

Suresh Subramanian, partner and national life sciences leader at EY Parthenon explained that “The Indian pharmaceutical industry is recognized as a key player on the global stage and has the bold ambition of reaching USD 450 billion [in value] by 2047.” Leaders at OPPI, which represents the research-based industry in India, were effusive. “The transition from Volume-Based to Value-Based healthcare is not merely a discourse; it’s a commitment to better outcomes for every individual in our nation,” proclaimed Suresh Pattathil, the organisation’s president.

OPPI Director General Anil Matai added that “The conversations and deliberations held during the summit … illuminate a path towards a future where science, innovation, and patient-centricity converge to redefine healthcare delivery in our country.”


From Generics to Innovation

However, Indian pharma remains best known globally for cheap generics rather than more expensive originator drugs. The relatively low manufacturing costs in the country, combined with the know-how of Indian scientists, and the canny business brains of its entrepreneurs, has seen India become the world’s largest supplier of generic medications, accounting for 20 percent of global supply by volume. Pharmaceutical innovation has tended to come from the US, Western Europe, and more recently China, meaning that India’s transformation into an innovation powerhouse faces stiff competition and will be beset with challenges.

The OPPI/EY report – based on survey responses from C-level executives at a range of organisations – highlighted the major impediments to greater investment in Indian innovation as the need for substantial capital injections over long periods of time, as well as the high risk of failure.


We need to bring a shift in the mindset, since most of us are still thinking with respect to the generics model, because it has become so successful

Rajeev Singh Raghuvanshi, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI)


Matai pointed to the importance of safeguarding intellectual property (IP) – the precious gem on which the innovative industry relies to safeguard its products’ profits and fund the next wave of research and development – in India. “India needs to establish a comprehensive regulatory data protection framework and bolster the IP environment and enforcement,” he said. “This will have a profound positive impact on India’s innovation ecosystem and enhance patients’ access to cutting-edge treatments.”

India’s regulator is also keen to promote innovation. Rajeev Singh Raghuvanshi, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) at the Central Drugs Control Standard Organization (CDCSO) told the assembled crowd that “We need to bring a shift in the mindset, since most of us are still thinking with respect to the generics model, because it has become so successful.”

He continued, “The problem lies in the fact that people in the pharma sector mostly wait for a reference, and then start working on something. There are very few people who take the initiative and start innovating on their own. So, just like how the development of generics has become a mass movement in India, we need to drive innovation and start a mass movement there as well”, he said.”


Faster and Broader Access

While the prospect of new medicines coming out of India is an exciting one, innovation that exists without patients being able to access it is like a diamond locked in a vault. Access and affordability are vital, and global innovators have seemingly been busy adjusting their strategies to India’s new, more innovation-friendly reality. In this vein, Meenakshi Nevatia, president & managing director for India at Pfizer – the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company by revenue – proposed the ‘ABCD’ framework to expand the vision for innovation and foster a more holistic approach.

For Nevatia, ‘A’ stands for access and affordability, an area in which Pfizer has been exploring targeted price programs in India. ‘B’ is for breakthrough innovation, while ‘C’ stands for comprehensive patient care, and ‘D’ for diagnosis at the right time.

Echoing the DCGI’s comments, Nevatia agreed that Indian regulators are moving in the right direction in terms of bringing more innovative products more quickly into India. She pointed to progress made on patents to incentivise innovation, work towards pre-grants & ensuring time-bound decisions. Additionally, Pfizer is already conducting global clinical trials in India in the hope of generating Indian patient data and shortening access timelines.

Digitalisation will also have a part to play, with a digitalised approval process reducing the bureaucratic burden that the current system represents and speeding up time to market.


Work to Do

Looking forward to the next quarter century, key topics for India to address include balancing the impetus for innovation with the imperative of keeping costs low; bridging the gap between intent and setting up the required infrastructure; strengthening and supporting India’s healthcare workforce; and leveraging technology and data to manage digital disruption. Healthcare and life science stakeholders globally will be watching eagerly to see whether India can capitalise on the ambitious innovation transformation plans it has set itself.