India is supplying 70% of WHO’s vaccines requirement and will be able to bulk manufacture the Covid-19 vaccines and supply to the globe. A number of Indian companies are working on a vaccine for COVID-19, joining the global race against time to find a preventive for the deadly infection.”

Ravi Udaya Bhaskar

DIRECTOR GENERAL, PHARMEXCIL

August 05, 2020

Could you provide some brief background about Pharmexcil, current membership and initiatives?

Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) was established in 2004 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry under the foreign trade policy to facilitate the exports of pharmaceuticals and allied products such as APIs, formulations, herbals, ayush and nutraceuticals etc. by way of assisting the Indian manufacturers in terms of international market exploration. Pharmexcil has about 4,000 registered members and it acts as an interface between the industry, Government and international agencies.

The major activities of Pharmexcil are identifying potential export opportunities and guiding Indian exporters to explore international markets, organizing trade delegations and business meetings in India and abroad, organizing regulatory awareness programs through International Knowledge Exchange Program (IKEP), organizing periodical training programs/ technical workshops on regulatory and export related issues, and collaborating with international agencies/ chambers/ associations to facilitate Indian exports.

Pharmexcil hosts an International Exhibition for Pharma & Healthcare (IPHEX) with the support of Ministry of Commerce & industry every year in India.

Could you share with us the export data for FY20? What global trends are driving or limiting exports for Indian pharma players?

India’s Pharma exports for FY-20 has recorded US$20.58 billion with a growth of over 7.57%. Pharma exports started doing well in the year 2019-20 and had a cumulative growth rate of 11.5% during Apr-Dec 2019, but exports were poor in fourth quarter with the onset of Covid-19 pandemic and  brought down the overall growth rate to 7.57% from 11.5%.  

Drug formulations and biologicals contributed to almost 72% of exports and have shown 9.5% growth in FY-20. India’s generic exports have been consistently growing over 2 to 2.5 times faster than the global generic market.

India being dependent on China to an extent of 60-70% of its needs of bulk drugs has suffered disruption in the supply chain with the outbreak of COVID 19, resulting in the negative trend in export performance of bulk drugs directly as well as the downward trend in overall export growth.

How is India working on treatments and vaccines related to COVID-19?

Indian pharma companies have ramped up the production of repurposed drugs such as Hydroxychloroquine, Lopinavir, Ritonavir, Remdesivir, Dexamethasone, Favipiravair, Tocilizumab etc to meet the growing demand across the globe.

India is supplying 70% of WHO’s vaccines requirement and will be able to bulk manufacture the Covid-19 vaccines and supply to the globe. A number of Indian companies are working on a vaccine for COVID-19, joining the global race against time to find a preventive for the deadly infection. Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has tied-up with American biotechnology firm Codagenix to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. Apart from that, it has already started manufacturing & stockpiling a vaccine developed by the Oxford Vaccine Group, which is undergoing clinical trials.

Bharat Biotech is working on two potential vaccine candidates and has partnered with Thomas Jefferson University of Philadelphia to develop a vaccine candidate using an existing deactivated rabies vaccine as well as with University of Wisconsin-Madison and US-based company FluGen to develop an intranasal vaccine called ‘CoroFlu’. Zydus Cadila is working on two different methods to develop a vaccine, one being the DNA vaccine and the second involves developing a live attenuated recombinant measles virus (rMV) vectored vaccine.

Indian Immunologicals Ltd has partnered with Australia Griffith University to research and develop a ‘Live Attenuated SARS – CoV 2 vaccine’ or COVID-19 vaccine using the latest codon de-optimization technology.

Apart from above, other companies such as Biological E, Hester Biosciences, Premas Biotech, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals and Mynvax are working on vaccine candidates for Covid-19.

Do you think the coronavirus crisis will prompt governments around the world to promote their own manufacturing capabilities? How can this affect India’s pharmaceutical exporters?

Certainly, Covid-19 is an eye opener to many countries which are depending on other countries for their essential medicines and supplies. Covid-19 has exposed the supply chain gaps and highlighted the necessity to build supply chain resilience to the Governments around the world.

We have observed the actions initiated by some of the nations such as USA & Europe in building their capabilities in domestic manufacturing for generics and APIs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working with private industry partners to expand pharmaceutical manufacturing of medicines needed during the COVID-19 response and future public health emergencies. Likewise, the European Union is taking rapid strides in reviving bulk drug industry, thus we may not have much of difficulty in feeding our formulation industry. I feel there wont be much impact on Indian exports, as the production cost here is competitive and we supply safe and efficacious medicines at affordable prices.

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