India’s potential to become the pharmacy capital of the world, strangely, came to public knowledge after the US President Donald Trump threatened India to pursue retaliatory measures if the later didn’t export anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine to the US for COVID-19 coronavirus treatment.
Trump’s Retaliation Threat over Hydroxychloroquine
As a course of the conversation over the COVID-19 crises, the US President called Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and requested him to lift the restriction on the American order of the essential anti-malarial drug. The ban was consequently lifted on April 7, 2020.
The crux of starting this article with this information is not to delve into the intricacies or complexities of India’s foreign policy or the question of sovereignty of India in the wake of US President’s verbal threats but to underscore the fact that India has the potential of becoming the pharmacy capital of the world.
This fact was earlier known to the experts and professionals associated with the pharmaceutical industry or medical field. Thanks to the open threats of the US President Donald Trump, the uproar regarding the same in the media (both Indian and foreign), and the consequent lifting of sanctions on the export of the essential anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine by India, this fact of India’s potential of becoming the pharmacy capital of the world is known to almost everyone now.
Countries to whom India is supplying medicines
India is not supplying anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine to the US only. It is indeed providing this essential life-saving medicine to 53 countries, and the list of requests from countries all over the world is increasing with every passing day.
India has ramped up its production of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and will export them to 53 countries (including the USA, Latin America, and the Caribbean). Of these, 34 countries will receive HCQ as grants, the rest 21 countries have purchased the life-saving HCQ from India.
Here is a list of 53 countries (in alphabetical order) to which India is exporting hydroxychloroquine drug, either as grants or commercial basis:
- Burkina Faso
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Dominican Republic
- Marshall Islands
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
Nezih Barut, chairman of leading Turkish pharmaceutical company Abdi Ibrahim, has recently said that many developed countries including Turkey are highly dependent on China and India in terms of raw materials for drugs that are believed to cure coronavirus-related symptoms.
With more than 2.5 million (2,564,038) people infected worldwide from COVID-19 infection and death toll racing towards 200,000 (177,424 at the time of writing as per COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering, CSSE, at Johns Hopkins University), scientists and researchers are scrambling to find a vaccine for COVID-19.
Until and unless such a vaccine is discovered, health experts around the world are treating coronavirus-related lung infections with anti-malaria drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
Many experiments done with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine on coronavirus patients show that a high percentage of them are showing positive results. Two most essential examples took place in France and China:
- An experimental treatment on 24 patients in France showed that 75% of the patients’ health condition responded positively within six days after the tests were conducted.
- A similar experiment was later done in China. More than 100 patients were administered with chloroquine phosphate. All of them showed positive results in terms of regression of pneumonia.
With the repeated successes in numerous experiments across the world, more and more governmental and semi-governmental agencies around the world are recommending the use of both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency authorisation on March 28, 2020, in light of these developments. This urged the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for experimental treatment of COVID-19 coronavirus.
- The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also approved the use of both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine medicines for coronavirus treatments in clinical trials as well as emergency use programmes.
With the absence of any vaccine currently and the severe condition of the coronavirus infection and death rate in the western world, the demand for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine medicines are incredibly high in those countries. The shortage of this essential drug also led the panic-stricken US President Donald Trump to threaten India in delivering the important hydroxychloroquine medicine.
How is India the pharmacy capital of the world?
Professor P.V. Narayana, the President of Indian Pharmaceutical Association, while addressing the inaugural day of the 2-day national conference SynchroPharma 2019 (almost a year before the COVID-19 outbreak) said that “by 2020, India is going to be the pharmacy of the world exporting a major chunk of the world’s pharmacy needs.” He went on to say that the Indian pharmaceutical industry is going to become an estimated $55 billion business by 2020, with exports of more than $19 billion.
During the same event, President of Pharmacy Council of India, Professor B. Suresh said that “one revolutionary drug can change the landscape of India Pharma industry and also the world.”
Whether you consider the words of Prof. P.V. Narayana or Prof. B. Suresh, their words are now turning out to be prophetic. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought before India the opportunity to become the pharmacy capital of the world. The one drug that is changing the landscape of the Indian pharmaceutical industry is hydroxychloroquine.
Till January 2020, the Indian pharma industry’s export in Financial Year 2020 was $13.69 billion. It is expected to become $20 billion by 2020-end. The government of India has come up with “Pharma Vision 2020”, which aims to make India a global leader in end-to-end drug manufacturing.
India is already the largest vaccine producer in the world. Bio-pharma is contributing to around 62% of the total pharmaceutical and drug revenue. From December 2019 to April 2020, the Indian Drugs and Pharmaceutical sector in India has received $16.39 billion worth of cumulative FDI.
An increasing percentage of sales of Indian pharmaceutical companies are being invested in R&D (Research & Development). In 2018, over 8.8% of the sales of the Indian pharma companies had invested in R&D. This is especially important if India wants to become the pharmacy capital of India.
The export scenario of the Indian pharmaceutical industry has received a shot in the arm during 2017-19 as $55 billion worth of branded drugs have become off-patent. This will boost the Indian pharmaceutical industry’s exports to the US, brightening the prospects of India’s pharmaceutical drug exports to the world.
With President of Pharmacy Council of India, Professor B. Suresh, calling pharmacists to “play an important role in reducing health expenditure on patients by becoming super specialists,” India is likely to produce many more affordable drugs in the near future and consequently become the pharmacy capital of the world.
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant has said that India has emerged as a global vaccine hub and the onus is now on the desi companies to come up with a vaccine for COVID-19 as fast as possible. He also said that the Indian pharmaceutical companies such as Cadila Healthcare (Zydus Cadila), Serum Institute of India Pvt Limited, Indian Immunologicals Limited, Biological E Limited, Mynvax, and Bharat Biotech are already in the race of coming up with the first COVID-19 vaccine.
Niti Aayog CEO also tweeted that it is now up to the Indian pharma companies to crack it and “enable the world to get the vaccine at a low price and make the world COVID free.”