The COVID-19 pandemic will never be forgotten, but at the same time will not be remembered with enthusiasm. Millions have lost their lives, and the virus is far from over. With the development of Vaccines against the virus, the situation started coming under control, but the fear still looms. The pharma sector’s contribution during the catastrophe has been commendable. Many major pharma players extended all the help they could. Health Biotech’s Remdesivir was exported to more than 50 countries which helped India in being recognised as the ‘Pharmacy of the World’.
Taking account of the gruesome situation, the government reoriented its policies towards making the country ‘Atmanirbhar’ while extending help globally. There were multiple challenges faced by the pharma industry during the pandemic, like shortage of healthcare staff, improper infrastructure, and lack of logistics, among others. But the industry overcame all the obstacles and helped India fight the pandemic. Parmjit Arora Health Biotech Director takes pride in being able to lend a helping hand in time of crisis. “We at Health Biotech constantly strive to ramp up our production capacity so that whenever there is an emergency, we are all ready to help. During the tough times of the pandemic, we made sure that no stone was left unturned in delivering the best quality medicines,” says Parmjit Arora. Remdesivir was heavily in demand across the globe.
The Vaccine makers received tremendous government support. “The Indian pharmaceutical industry will grow. Going forward, one of the underlying economic fundamentals is that countries will increasingly invest more in healthcare,” says K.V. Subramaniam, President of Reliance Life Sciences. He added that Covid-19 vaccines have opened up new opportunities for the Indian pharma sector.
India not only manufactured all the vaccines under the national Covid-19 immunisation programme but also exported them. Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech manufactured and developed its vaccine Covaxin, Oxford-AstraZeneca developed Covishield was manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII), and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, the main distributor of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, locally manufactured it.
At least a dozen Indian firms were either developing Covid-19 vaccines or antiviral therapeutics. Over the period of time, the Union health ministry approved two more vaccines—Covovax and Corbevax—and the antiviral drug Molnupiravir. Covovax, developed by US biotech firm Novavax Inc., is being manufactured and marketed in India by SII. Corbevax, developed by the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and the California-based Dynavax Technologies, was licensed to the Indian biopharma firm Biological E. for development and production. Molnupiravir is being manufactured by 13 firms in India. Apart from vaccines, India also established the position of a global exporter by sending the necessary medicines. Cipla and Health Biotech Remdesivir were global heroes.
“The Indian healthcare sector has witnessed many changes during the Covid-19 outbreak, one such being in the area of online consultations. Convenience and safety have emerged as the major reasons behind the rise of teleconsultations,” says Vikram Thaploo, CEO of Apollo Telehealth. Telemedicine got the push through the government’s telemedicine practice guidelines which were published in 2020, and made telehealth a legitimate delivery channel. According to Invest India, the country’s digital healthcare market was valued at Rs 11,661 crore in 2018 and is estimated to reach Rs 48,543 crore by 2024, expanding at a CAGR of 27.41 per cent in 2019-2024. Over the next ten years, the National Digital Health Blueprint can unlock the incremental economic value of over $200 billion for the healthcare industry.