In the wake of heightened tensions in Indo-China relations, the Centre is working to reduce the Indian pharmaceutical industry’s dependence on Chinese raw material imports.

“All government agencies are keen on this. On the directions of the Ministry of Commerce, Pharmexcil and the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) are working on a Detailed Project Report,” R Udaya Bhaskar, Director-General, Pharmexcil, told Business Line .

The Ministry of Commerce recently conducted a meeting and roped in research laboratories and other stakeholders to work on a roadmap to realise this strategic objective. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will take up the matter with domain experts on August 12.

Indian drug exports to China are insignificant in value terms, but Indian drug manufactures import raw materials worth $6 billion, according to the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil).

Import substitution

China is the main supplier of raw materials for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients and key standing materials. “In some case, including in the life-saving drugs category, the dependence on Chinese imports is as much as 90 per cent. We have identified about 50-60 drugs for import substitution,” Udaya Bhaskar said.

While the drug industry faces no disruption from recent border tensions, there is concern over the fallout of these developments. This assumes significance in the wake of India’s decision to keep in abeyance a $1.3-billion deal under which Chinese company Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceuticals was to take over Hyderabad-based Gland Pharma.

“If tensions escalate, we worry it will cast a shadow on business,” said an executive whose company imports raw materials from China.