India – The World’s Pharmacy

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This article has been written by Mustafa Chitalwala., a student of Symbiosis Law School, Pune

The Coronavirus has been the most significant emergency since World War II. With several scientists and researchers, all thriving towards fighting one cause, finding a cure for this novel virus proves to be a real race against time. This virus is not only causing human but also economic dilemmas, with countries making social distancing and the use of protective equipment’s key in this fight against the virus. Globally, Covid-19 infections have hit nearly 4.5 million people with more than 3,50,000 deaths.  This is not only increasing catastrophic damage for the people but also for the economy. The global primary priority of governments being to protect their citizens, multiple countries are in a race to produce a safe vaccine to safeguard the people.

Every countries mission is to prepare a safe vaccine. The development of a safe vaccine is a long, complicated process, often lasting 10-15 years. However, experts say that since the world is working together towards the fight against one cause, the vaccine could be prepared within no time. One of the steadiest ways of prolonging the pandemic is through the production of an effective vaccine to secure millions of people. Countries like Italy and Iran, which are the focal hubs for the disease’s transmission, have claimed to produce an appropriate vaccine.

WHERE DOES INDIA STAND

India is having laudable policies towards the restriction of the disease; however, it will not be long before the virus starts spreading. India needs to contain the virus at such a time when the number of infected people has reached 82,000 as of 15 May. Before these numbers keep rising, India needs to find a better solution. The only way to prevent the spread of the virus is by social distancing or by providing a secure vaccine. However, social distancing does not seem not to thrive by the ignorant masses. Thus, there is an emergent need for a safe vaccine.

With all countries working to find one solution, all eyes are on India. India is the powerhouse of vaccine production. India manufactures 60 per cent of the world’s vaccines and accounts for 60-80 per cent of the United Nations’ annual vaccine procurement. Several Indian companies have also helped over the years to produce and distribute vaccines to the world. The WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan commended India for keeping the coronavirus cases and deaths very low compared to other countries and said that India would play an essential role in the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. It is not only crucial for countries to develop the vaccine, but they need to manufacture them and distribute them to the masses at an affordable price, and that is where these Indian companies play a considerable part. These Indian Pharmaceutical companies export more than 80% of the world’s vaccines at an average cost of 50 cents a dose. India has earned the title of world pharmacy, as India is the centre of great assistance for many nations, importing medical supplies to 133 countries including 446 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine and 1.54 billion tablets of paracetamol. The country, which appears to be poverty-stricken, will be the country that has played a significant role in ending the virus. Not only will this make India more reliable but it will also help us build more alliances

THE INDIAN COMPANIES IN THE RACE

India supplies drugs and vaccines to 165 countries in the world. Leading manufacturing countries such as India, Indonesia and Thailand have huge manufacturing capacities. According to Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, said “The manufacturing capacity that exists in our region is of the quality and scale required to produce and roll-out a COVID-19 vaccine globally. This region is a vaccine manufacturing powerhouse and must now also play a lead role in overcoming the ongoing pandemic,”

At present, top vaccine makers such as Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Zydus that are racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The Indian government emphasised on ayurvedic medicine to increase people’s immunity. The 50-year-old Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine maker by the number produced and sold globally. This Pune based Institute makes around 1.5 billion doses a year. This firm will be the backbone to manufacture the vaccine globally. The company has already started with the production of the vaccine and has collaborated and partnered with a number of esteemed organisations such as the Oxford University and US-based biotechnology firm Codagenix. These two organisations were among the earliest companies to have proven cynical trails on animals. If all goes well, scientists hope to make at least a million doses by September. “It is pretty clear the world is going to need hundreds of millions of doses, ideally by the end of this year, to end this pandemic, to lead us out of lockdown,” Prof Adrian Hill of Oxford University.

Bharat Biotech has also announced a partnership with US Based firm FluGen and The University of Wisconsin Madison to make around 300 million doses available for manufacturing. This esteemed company was the first company to provide a vaccine against the H1N1 flu and Zica Virus. Thus, identifying and locating a solution is the strong suit of Indian Biotech.

Zydus Cadilla is working on two vaccines, one with Etna Biotech a Europe based firm, while Biological E, Indian Immunological, and Mynvax are developing a vaccine each. Another four or five home-grown vaccines are in early stages of development.

AFFORDABILITY ISSUE

Indian Pharmaceutical companies in 1969 had a 5% share in the global market. However, by 2020 India’s global market share became an alarming 85% in the pharmaceutical market. Owing to their broad production facilities, Indian businesses can render their prices very low, with Indian firms averaging their dozes up to 50 cents. Serum Institute of India has already averaged a cost of Rs.1000 for the Coronavirus vaccine, which will be very affordable given that government testing costs thrice this amount. About 90 per cent of the Indian Biotech’s vaccines are sold in lower- to middle-income countries. It owns 160 global patents and sells products in over 65 countries. The prices of medicines in India are among the lowest in the world, partially because they are driven by very high competition. With the quality of the USFDA (India has the largest number of USFDA-approved plants in the world) that has a reputation for top-notch reliability, India will be able to supply quality medicines at low prices. Due to the low-cost and virtuous quality, India will be the country to most likely play an essential role in the manufacturing of the vaccine.

CONCLUSION

After the World Health Organization’s annual meeting this month, India will move to a leadership role at headquarter. The appointment of Prime Minister Modi, nominated as chairperson, at such a time when the world is struggling to battle against the virus. At this given time all eyes lay on India now. These pharmaceutical companies are already playing their role in this virus. However, the Indian government’s support would accelerate these pharmaceutical players development and production of the vaccine. First, to ensure the timely discovery of treatment plans and medications, the government needs to implement expedited approval and abbreviated testing condition provisions in the legislation.  Secondly, the government should help these companies by improving the procurement of raw materials and keeping the supply chain going. Lastly, to increase production, the government plans to implement strategic financial incentives to promote the manufacture of diagnostic kits and other medical devices — especially given that the raw material for the manufacture of these devices depends heavily on imports. The Indian government has allocated Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen the healthcare sector. Various state governments are also doing their bit.

Image from here 

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