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Govt must incentivise pharma exports, drug discovery: Dr Reddy’s Chairman

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on April 17, 2020 Published on April 17, 2020

Public spending on healthcare must be scaled up, says Satish Reddy

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented crisis across the world pushing economy towards recession and society into a state of uncertainty. K Satish Reddy, Chairman, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd and President of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), has been playing a key role in shaping the policies for the pharmaceutical industry as well as broader macro economic aspects. BusinessLine spoke to him on a range of topics pertaining to the industry and policy-making. Excerpts:

How do you sum up the impact of Covid19 and lockdown on the pharmaceutical industry? What are steps being taken in the operations?

The scale and magnitude of the crisis is unprecedented for which nobody was prepared. The intention of the pharma industry is to maintain continuity of supplies. Though there were some issues in the movement of goods and attendance of staff in the initial days of lockdown, there has been improvement in the the past couple of weeks due to the integrated efforts of the industry, government and all other stakeholders. Things will get much better once the lockdown is lifted. In operations, we are following standard protocols to ensure safety of our employees and their families.

Are we, including the policy-makers, prepared to tackle a crisis like this given the state of the health infrastructure in the country? Or have we been caught off-guard?

I think no policy-makers will actually be prepared for this kind of global pandemic which is different from the previous ones like SARS or H1N1. But, there are things that the government should take up for the future’s sake and some lessons can be learnt. There has always been the problem of government spending very little on public health. Although there is an intention to scale it up, we have not seen much action yet. It should be done.

Secondly, institutions should gear up for a coordinated effort not only for the present but for future as well. We have to strengthen the institutions in terms of expertise and capacity of human resources. Unless you take steps pro-actively to beef up the capacity, things will remain tough. I think this should be taken up on a war-footing.

What role you see for Indian pharma companies in designing drugs/vaccines indigenously?

There are quite a few companies working in the vaccines space. From the IPA, what we are looking at is whether the present level of innovation is adequate. The drug discovery is high risk and reward. The business model requires the government to step in. To be in the forefront of drug discovery or to replicate what China had achieved with proactive policies, we need to create an innovation fund, weighted deduction or sunset clause should be revived. We from the IPA have been talking to government in this regard.

There has been a talk about reducing India’s dependence on China for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients and intermediaries but nothing much has been done. What is your take on this?

I see this as a great opportunity for Indian players. The Government had already announced a ₹10,000-crore fund for 53 essential medicines which have import dependency for APIs and other raw materials. This is first step but not entirely adequate.

“If India has to be globally competitive and has to regain its past glory as largest manufacturer of APIs in the world and if we want companies to invest aggressively, the government should incentivise exports and drug discovery. This would attract more investments and the industry will scale new heights.

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Published on April 17, 2020
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