Focus on quality outcomes to change perception on drugs from India: Pharma chiefs

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on February 28, 2021

In the early days of the pandemic and well into it, a handful of pharma chiefs used to interact for about 45 minutes every morning to discuss challenges they faced and outline protocols to keep operations running and the supply of medicines unaffected.

This was revealed by the heads of large Indian drugmakers Lupin, Cipla, Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and Cadila Helathcare, at the recently-concluded Indian Pharmaceutical Forum.

For an industry that usually gets brickbats, this effort helped change the perception of the industry, observed Nilesh Gupta, Managing Director of Lupin Limited, participating in the Forum’s CEO Panel that also had Sun Pharma Managing Director Dilip Shanghvi, DRL Chairman Satish Reddy, Cadila Healthcare Chairman Pankaj Patel and Cipla’s Executive Vice-chairperson Samina Hamied.

The discussion traversed various pandemic-related issues from keeping local and global medicine supplies uninterrupted, addressing the dependence on China for active pharmaceutical ingredients to the more general adoption of technology.

But the one perception that most certainly needed to be fixed was that of the quality of products from India, the pharma chiefs agreed. Foreign regulators participating at the IPF had pointed out that several people in the US, for instance, did not believe in the quality of medicines sold in their country that were made abroad. And much of these medicines and ingredients come from India and China.

Regulatory outcomes

Drug companies needed to get better regulatory outcomes on their products, Gupta said, stressing on the need for constant attention to quality to change this perception. Quality should be non-negotiable, added Cipla’s Samina, and companies needed to constantly evolve and adopt the best practices available.

As foreign regulators resume their inspections of Indian drug facilities, Sun Pharma’s Shanghvi suggested that technology could be used to give regulators a continuous or more dynamic insight into a company’s quality performance, rather than an audit that was a snapshot at a given point in time. If regulators were kept abreast of the company’s performance, this could facilitate quicker approvals of products that can be supplied into the market, he pointed out.

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Cadila Healthcare’s Patel said that the industry now needed to “innovate, innovate and innovate””, and not just in terms of products. It needed to “think differently”in terms of training people, collecting data and strategising to have dedicated specialised facilities and so on, he added.

In the days ahead, the attention would be on the 2 “Vs”, said DRL’s Satish Reddy, referring to the corona virus and its variants that were still a cause for worry and the pace of vaccination. For the long term, Lupin’s Gupta pointed out that Indian drug companies needed “to do whatever it takes” to keep their important position” on the global map. “We created the position that India has on the generic map,” he said, in that, it was not handed over to them. “And its ours to lose,” he said, cautioning against complacency.

Published on February 28, 2021

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