Dr Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
The year 2013 was probably one-of-the-worst years for the Indian economy as economic growth decelerated to below five percent and inflation soared. Political bickering and scandals kept the government in fire-fighting mode, leading to a stalling of much-needed economic reforms and policy paralysis.
The extent of the government's failure was reflected in the skyrocketing prices of onions, despite India being the world's second-largest producer of onions after China. In order to manage this manmade crisis the Indian government was compelled to import onions from neighboring countries. It is no wonder then that elections in India are fought over rise and fall of ‘vegetable prices.' Trouble for pharma industry India's pharma sector also witnessed an unprecedented slowdown, growing at barely 5.20 % in 2013 against an average growth of 12 percent the previous year. The negative impact was further compounded by adverse policy decisions in India with respect to a new drug price control regime, a moratorium on clinical trials, uncertainty trol regime, a moratorium on clinical trials, uncertainty over the FDI policy and attempts to invoke frivolous compulsory licenses on several drugs.
An overactive US FDA did not help matters, as it hauled up several leading Indian pharma companies for non-compliance. All these negative developments collectively turned 2013 into an Annus Horribilis for the Indian pharma sector.
The good news
It was not all gloom and doom. On the brighter side, India took the lead in developing and adopting biosimilars guidelines, which enabled the approval of the world's first biosimilar of Herceptin for breast cancer, developed in India by Biocon and Mylan.
The introduction of biosimilar Trastuzumab in India in 2014 will offer an affordable option for millions of cancer patients in India and in the other world markets subsequently.
What to expect in 2014?
As 2014 is an election year, we can expect the general elections to lead to a stable majority government at the Center. Hopefully, that will be a starting point for addressing some of the country's long-pending challenges through bold policy reforms.
We hope that the new government will be able to create real jobs, pro- vide good infrastructure for industrial growth, facilitate ease of doing business in the country, ensure safety and security for women and promote better governance.
At the same time, the government will need to come up with innovative solutions to meet the burgeoning healthcare needs of the country's teeming millions through affordable medicines.