Cost of HIV/AIDS treatment down globally due to Indian firms: Venkaiah Naidu

Due to the ability of the Indian pharma companies to produce drugs at economical rates, the cost of HIV/AIDS treatment has gone down to $400 per year from $12,000, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said, hailing the country’s “spectacular” contribution to global healthcare.

He said India has always taken a “bold and exemplary” stand against “blind patent” protection that benefit global pharma giants and asserted that providing essential drugs and medicines at cost-effective prices was the key focus of the government.

Noting that India has since ancient times a very systematic, scientific and rational approach to treatment of diseases, he said the country it has now become the third largest drug manufacturer in the world.

Addressing the 70th Indian Pharmaceutical Congress, held at Amity University, in Noida, the Vice President said presently over 80 percent of the antiretroviral drugs used globally to combat AIDS are supplied by the Indian pharmaceutical firms.

“Due to the ability of the Indian pharma companies to produce drugs at economical rates, the cost of HIV/AIDS treatment has gone down to $400 per year from $12,000 – a spectacular contribution to global healthcare. India also has a large pool of talented scientists and engineers who have the potential to lead the industry ahead to greater heights,” he said, according to an official statement.

The Centre has taken up a number of initiatives to create an ecosystem that fosters manufacturing and have identified a few key areas with pharmaceuticals being one of those due to the immense scope for technology, innovation and research in it, he said.

Naidu said India already has the second highest number of US FDA approved facilities, and labour costs in India are significantly lower than other manufacturing hubs and the Union Budget 2017-18 shows an increase of 23 percent in the health expenditure that is likely to give further impetus to the pharma sector.

“The government has proposed amendments to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules to ensure availability of generic drugs at reasonable prices and to promote the use of generic medicines. It has also introduced a range of fiscal incentives to promote domestic manufacturing, including the reduction of inverted duty structure and basic customs duty,” he said.

Noting that drug patenting is significant in catalysing growth in the pharmaceutical sector, the vice president said India has always taken “a bold and exemplary stand” against “blind patent protection that benefit global pharma giants”.

“This uncompromising stand has been demonstrated through the granting of compulsory licence in 2012 to an Indian manufacturer to produce a cancer drug, the patent for which was held by the German company Bayer. Bayer’s pricing had made the drug unaffordable to poor cancer patients in India, Africa and elsewhere,” he said.

The Supreme Court of India also upheld the 2006 decision of the Indian patent office that refused a patent for a mere incremental innovation to a Swiss Pharma major. The verdict disallowing patent protection caused an international uproar, Naidu recalled.

“Providing essential drugs and medicines at cost-effective prices is the key focus of Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers,” Naidu said.

“Under the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy, as on December 15, 2016, ceiling price of 853 formulations are under price control. The fixation of ceiling prices on medicines has resulted in a total saving of $392 million since May 2014,” he said.

Naidu said India has successfully maintained its “legacy of being a pioneer” in the field of pharmacology and today enjoys the exalted position of being the “Pharmacy to the world”.

“The Pharma industry has posted a robust, double-digit growth over the last few years. The industry was worth $36.7 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow to $55 billion by 2020… India is now among the top five pharmaceutical emerging markets of the world,” Naidu said.

He said India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally accounting for 20 percent of the global exports in terms of volume with their export growing at a “very impressive” rate of around 24 percent per year for the last four years.

“In 2012-13, India’s pharmaceutical exports stood at $14.7 billion. More than half of it went to western markets which have tight regulations and strong accountability mechanisms. This is an eloquent testimony to the competence of the Indian pharma sector in terms of quality and pricing,” the vice president said.

He said the country has the desire and capability to absorb new technologies in manufacturing and ‘Make in India’ is one of the key programmes launched by the government to boost the economy and the aim is to transform India into a global manufacturing hub.

Naidu said ‘Pharma Jan Samadhan’, a customer grievances redressal system was launched and a mobile application – ‘Pharma Sahi Daam’ that provides real-time information to consumers on prices of Scheduled/Non-scheduled medicines has also been introduced.

Besides, quality medicines at affordable prices are now available to the poor and disadvantaged through the ‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan aushadhi Kendras’, he said.

“There are more than 700 medicines; more than 150 surgicals and consumables are available at affordable prices for all at more than 4000 ‘Jan Aushadi Kedras’ across the nation.