PM Modi's HCQ move sets Indian Pharma sector to road to profitability and growth

    09-Apr-2020   
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India Pharmaceutical industry has the ability to manufacture as high as 70 percent of the world's supply of hydroxychloroquine and it can also quickly boost the output of the drug. GOI's decision to export hydroxychloroquine selectively and cautiously will give the much needed boost to the sector.
 
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New Delhi: Fortune favours the brave; and the prophets of doom in India - the opposition parties and the secular brigade - got it coming and finally got the blow on their nose.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's big time risky but gamechanger move to allow export of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol tablets have seemingly opened opportunities for the indigenous pharma industry. Thankfully, all that has happened when there is an atmosphere of gloom globally owing to the economic havoc and cost of human lives vis-s-vis the unseen Corona virus.
 
On April 7, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced that three pharma companies based in Gujarat will supply hydroxychloroquine to the United States as desired by President Donald Trump. Official sources reveal in Delhi that each month India produces about 20 crore tablets of 200 mg each, of HCQ. Ipca Laboratories Ltd., Zydus Cadila and Wallace Pharmaceuticals are top companies manufacturing the drug in India.
 
Following the recommendation of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that HCQ functions as a preventive medication for Covid-19 high risk groups, the government of India has also placed an order for 100 million tablets with Ipca Laboratories and Zydus Cadila.
 
India has the ability to manufacture as high as 70 percent of the world's supply of hydroxychloroquine and it can also quickly boost the output of the drug. But there is a small catch as the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) used to manufacture HCQ comes from China. Thankfully, yet again there have been no supply issue from China -- ironically the land the genesis of Covid19 lies.
 
The Modi government's decision to selectively and cautiously allow 'export' of HCQ was given out to be a case of abrupt 'ghootna tekna' (surrender) by PM Modi to the dictates of President Trump. Congress and Left parties as usual did not waste time to direct their tirade against the Prime Minister. The traditional Modi bashers too lambasted the government decision on social media, but all their euphoria was short lived.
 
Now there is immense appreciation of PM's decision to green flag the export from Trump himself and also Brazil Prime Minister Jair Bolsonaro, who has likened the supply of HCQ from India to Hanuman bringing the ‘holy medicine’ in the ‘Ramayana’. Brazil has so far more than 14,000 covid-19 positive cases and there have been 688 fatalities, the highest in South America.
 
Trump has lauded Modi saying - "Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends. Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ. Will not be forgotten! Thank you Prime Minister Narendra Modi for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight".
 
The Indian Pharmaceutical industry is about $ 18 bn industry with as many as 20,000 registered companies (includes MNC’s and small scale units). In pharma production and business, India has the distinction of being the lowest cost producer of medicine in the world and the largest exporter of generic drugs.
 
Hydroxychloroquine is not manufactured in the US and some other developed nations simply because malaria is virtually non-existent there. Notably, Indian Council of Medical Research has recommended hydroxychloroquine to be used as preventive medication for Covid-19 patients in the high-risk group but it is still not foolproof medicine against corona or Wuhan virus.
 
Medico experts say India needs around 24 million tablets per year for malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis and thus there is need for restricted export only. Here comes the relevance of the statement from MEA spokesman Anurag Shrivastava, who had said - "With regard to paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), they will be kept in a licensed category and their demand position would be continuously monitored". Shrivastava also has said India would be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been "particularly badly affected by the pandemic".
 
The country’s pharmaceutical exports rose 11 per cent to $19.2 billion in 2018-19.
 
North America - as a continent - constitutes about 30-35 per cent of Indian pharma exports, followed by Africa at about 20 per cent. Generic drugs form the largest segment of the Indian pharmaceutical sector, with 75 per cent market share in terms of revenues. India supplies 20 per cent of global generic medicines in terms of volume.
 
Obviously, higher growth in export shipments would push up employment opportunities and also help India attract more in terms of foreign exchanges. There is certainly a ray of light at the end of the tunnel.