Saturday, June 30, 2018

Indian government plans to optimization of resources SMEs and bulk drug industry

Aiming to reduce the cost of bulk drugs by 20%-25% and to help small and medium pharmaceutical enterprises (SMEs) upgrade their technology, the Indian government is looking to pump in several millions to support and shore up the drug industry, reports The Pharma Letter’s India correspondent.

The government is keen to provide assistance to the bulk drug industry to "ease the competitiveness, provide easy access to standard testing and infrastructure facilities and value addition" through the creation of common facility centers. Proposed as a central sector scheme, the total size of the bulk drug scheme has been placed at $29 million for 2018-2020.

"The aim is to strengthen the existing infrastructure facilities in order to make the Indian bulk drug industry a global leader in bulk drug exports," said an official. Reducing the cost of production in the bulk drug park will also lead to better availability and affordability of bulk drugs in the domestic market, the official added.

Price reductions

In the domestic market, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has fixed the retail and ceiling prices of 22 formulations used for the treatment of various ailments including HIV, bacterial infections and cardiac condition, among others.

The regulator has fixed ceiling prices of co-trimoxazole sulphamethoxazole and trimethoprim tablets used for treating a variety of bacterial infections. It has also fixed the retail prices of drugs like omeprazole domperidone capsule, to treat acidity and gastroesophageal reflux disease, and clotrimazole beclomethasone cream, for a variety of inflamed fungal skin infections.

The price of rosuvastatin clopidogrel, used to lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate lamivudine efavirenz tablet, an HIV treatment, have also been lowered.

Five sub schemes

Announcing guidelines for five sub-schemes under the Pharma Development Program, the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) said the main objective is to reduce the cost of production for bulk drugs. Exploiting the benefits arising due to optimization of resources and economies of scale is the next step.

The scheme is to be implemented through a one-time grant-in-aid. The purpose of the grant, the official said, is to render financial assistance for the establishment of common facilities in any upcoming bulk drug park promoted by the state governments or state corporations.

The maximum limit for the grant-in-aid would be $14.64 million per bulk drug park. As for the Common Facility Centers, the maximum limit for the grant-in-aid under this category would be $2.93 million per cluster.

Another scheme proposed is for the assistance of cluster development. The scheme is termed as cluster development program for the pharma sector, and will be a central sector scheme. The total size of the scheme is proposed at $2.93 million for 2018-2020.

This would be implemented on a public-private partnership format through a one-time grant-in-aid to be released in various phases for the creation of identified infrastructure and common facilities.

The pharmaceutical promotion development scheme will also aim at the promotion, development and export promotion in the pharmaceutical sector.

A budgetary allocation of $21 million for 2018-2020 has been made for the Pharmaceutical Technology Upgradation Assistance Scheme (PTUAS).

The official added it is possible to extend the benefit of interest subvention to around 250 SMEs under the scheme.

SME scheme
The PTUAS sub-scheme is aimed at providing interest subvention to eligible SME pharma units having GMP compliant manufacturing facilities both for bulk drugs and pharmaceutical formulations.

Eligible units intending to upgrade their manufacturing infrastructure to attain WHO-GMP norms, have to secure a loan from any financial institution to upgrade their infrastructure and technology. The goal of this scheme is to facilitate SMEs of proven track records, and to enable them to participate and compete in the global market and earn foreign exchange.

Almost 75% pharma SMEs are purely manufacturing companies with their own facilities, and around 13% companies are engaged in manufacturing as well as trading.

Of these, 10.5% companies are doing R&D work, both clinical tests as well as contract research, along with manufacturing. Around 50% of these pharma SMEs are engaged in exports to various countries around the world, including the USA and Europe.

Pharma exports

The Indian government is keen that the pharmaceutical sector looks for new markets. Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu said government is committed to giving access to the sector in key global markets.

Emphasizing the need to reach out to newer markets, especially in Africa where affordability of drugs is a key issue, Mr Prabhu said the Indian drug industry could well address the problem with its generic drugs.

Asking drugmakers to increase R&D investments, Mr Prabhu also called on companies to find ways to make healthcare more affordable to people by reducing costs.

Stating that regions like Latin America and Africa hold huge export potential for Indian pharmaceutical products, Mr Prabhu said "the pipeline for new medicines should not get dry."

Speaking at a pharma exhibition, Mr Prabhu also assured global pharmaceutical players and regulators about the quality and affordability of Indian drugs. He added the government is committed to promoting pharma exports to China, as well as to other untapped markets.

With China agreeing to a high-level bilateral round table meeting, Mr Prabhu said it would clear the way for Indian companies to get greater market access and penetration in China.

The USA accounted for 31% of India's $17.27 billion pharma exports in 2017-18. India also has the highest number of US Food and Drug Administration approved plants outside the USA.

API development

Eager to reduce dependence on China, India's chemicals and fertilizers ministry has joined hands with other ministries to draw up a road-map for increasing active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) production in India. A high-level task force has been constituted to study global practices and draw up a plan aimed at boosting domestic production of APIs.

Currently, over 60% of APIs are sourced from other nations. For some specific APIs, the dependence is over 80%-90%, according to the DoP.

India continues to rely on imports of key starting materials, intermediates and APIs from China, with the share of dependence increasing over time. This potentially exposes the country to raw material supply disruptions and pricing volatility.

With the government keen to increase India's pharmaceutical exports to China, the Department of Commerce in coordination with the Embassy of India at Beijing commissioned a study on 'Enhancing Indian Exports of Pharmaceutical products to China'.

China's healthcare sector continues to grow rapidly with spending projected to grow from $357 billion in 2011 to $1 trillion in 2020, the study adds.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pharmacy Netmeds fundraising plans even in the business-to-business B2B space raise more funding

Net-Meds Marketplace Pvt. Ltd, which runs online pharmacy, is firming up Series B fundraising plans even as it is looking at acquisitions to beef up offerings and diversify into the business-to-business (B2B) segment, a top executive told

The PE-backed company that raised $60 million in two tranches last year expects to close the second round of funding in a year, said founder and CEO Pradeep Dadha.

At present, Netmeds caters to retail customers by procuring products from wholesale and retail shops. It plans to enter the B2B segment, targeting hospitals and retail shops, which would enable it to buy directly from manufacturers, he said.

It expects to enter the B2B segment after the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is implemented, Dadha said.

A part of the funds will also be used for building cold-chain storage facilities and improving its supply chain when it enters the B2B space, he added.Dadha said the online pharmacy is at a stage where ecommerce was five years ago and hence is spending a lot of money on customer acquisition to create a business category and maintain service levels. Furthermore, the firm drives its growth through prescription and non-prescription medicines, and not via over-the-counter and FMCG products. Hence, it has higher stickiness from existing customers and can continue to offer discounts through an efficient supply chain and collaborations with manufacturers.

It is also engaged in acquisition talks with companies that have complementary service offerings. Early this month, the firm was reported to be in an advanced stage of discussions to acquire Pluss, a hyperlocal drugs delivery startup, owned by Alpinismo Online Ventures Pvt. Ltd. The combined entity is expected to take on rival 1mg, an online marketplace for medicines.

Dadha declined to comment on Pluss, but said through acquisitions, it could offer value-added services such as recording information on chronic diseases for customers. The company continues to look for acquisition targets in the logistics and health-tech space.

Net-Meds Marketplace was launched by Dadha whose family ran Tamilnadu Dadha Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which was acquired and merged with Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd in 1997. S Mohanchand Dadha (father of Pradeep Dadha) who founded Tamilnadu Dadha Pharmaceuticals is now a member of the board of Sun Pharma, India’s top drugmaker.

The firm claims to have close to one million customers from 700 cities with 65% of the business generated from tier II and III cities, Dadha said.

In October last year, Netmeds received funding worth $50 million (Rs 325 crore) from healthcare-focused global private equity firm OrbiMed, with participation from existing investors MAPE Advisory Group and founder and CEO Pradeep Dadha’s family investment fund.

In May 2015, MAPE had said it will invest about $10 million in yet to be launched Netmeds, taking the total Series A funding to $60 million.

The company has 70,000 stock keeping units (SKU) with an average basket size of Rs 1,750. It plans to reach $1 billion transactions by March 2020.

Other online pharmacy startups in the space include Zigy, 1mg and CareOnGo, to name a few.

The drug department on a pharmacy in 11th chemist shop to be sealed and 30 chemists lose licence

NOIDA: The district drug department on Friday sealed a pharmacy in Mamura for being run without a pharmacist making it the 11th chemist shop to be sealed in the past two months. It has also suspended licences of over 30 chemists in the past two months for operating their pharmacies without a pharmacist.

During the Friday raid, a pharmacy in Chhalera also received a show-cause notice by the department. Officials had said that the drive against shops violating rules will be intensified after Dussehra.

Deepanshu Medical Store in Mamura was sealed and Pooja Medical Store in Chhalera was issued a show-cause notice. The department also banned the sale of drugs by the store for now.

During the inspection, the officials found that Deepanshu Medical Store had not appointed a registered pharmacist and was instead being run by the chemist, who was not present in the store at the time of the inspection.

Deepak Sharma, drug inspector of the district told TOI that there was no proprietor or pharmacist present at the store when it was raided and instead a third person was found at the store. "We have sealed the store and the chemist? licence has been sent to the District Licensing Authority for action. No bills were found for the sale and purchase of the drugs," he said.

Similarly, at Pooja Medical Store, no pharmacist was found and hence, a show-cause notice was issued by the department to the store owner and sale of drugs was stopped. Employing a registered pharmacist at the store is necessary for chemists.

The chemist association blamed the government for the mess saying it issued licences without keeping a check on the numbers. Anoop Khanna, president, Gautam Budh Nagar chemist association told TOI that it (the drive against pharmacies) is like asking someone to make a mistake and then punishing them for it. "The government has allowed so many drug stores to run and issued licences but pharmacists are few and have become redundant now. It is very unfair to those who are running their pharmacies with a pharmacist as they don't even need one."

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment (Amrit) pharmacy at Gauhati Medical College Hospital

GUWAHATI: The state got its first Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment (Amrit) pharmacy at Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) on Wednesday.

Inaugurated by Union health minister JP Nadda, the store will provide life-saving drugs at heavily discounted rates. Patients can also buy oncology and cardiovascular medicines and implants. Similar Amrit stores will be opened on the premises of five medical college hospitals in Jorhat, Barpeta, Tezpur, Dibrugarh and Silchar soon.

"We are trying to provide affordable medicines and treatment to people. Drugs for cancer and other diseases will be available at the GMCH outlet," said Nadda, who was accompanied by state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

In August, Sarma had said if the six Amrit pharmacies in medical college hospitals were successful, the state government would open more such outlets elsewhere.

Online pharmacy Netmeds marketplace for medicines pluss

Online pharmacy is in advanced stage of discussions to acquire Pluss, a hyperlocal drugs delivery startup, owned by Alpinismo Online Ventures Pvt. Ltd Company. The combined entity is expected to take on rival 1mg, an online marketplace for medicines.

Pluss’ existing investors IDG Ventures India, Singapore’s M&S Partners and US-based Powerhouse Ventures will all receive stakes in Netmeds, The Economic Times reported citing unnamed sources.

Messages and email queries sent to the founders of Netmeds and Pluss did not elicit a response at the time of filing this report.

Pluss had raised $1 million (Rs 6.65 crore) in pre-Series A funding from its existing ventures in November 2015. The firm allows users to order medicines, baby care, pet care, personal wellness and daily essential products through its on-demand delivery app. The firm was launched in 2015 by BITS, Pilani graduate Atit Jain, former Bharti Airtel executive Madhulika Pandey, and IIT-Bombay alumnus Tarun Lawadia.

In October last year, Netmeds received funding worth $50 million (Rs 325 crore) from healthcare focused global private equity firm OrbiMed, with participation from existing investors MAPE Advisory Group and CEO and founder Pradeep Dadha’s family investment fund.

Other online pharmacy startups that have been in the news are Zigy, 1mg and CareOnGo, to name a few.

Last month, Zigy, founded by former Infosys director and IGATE CEO Phaneesh Murthy, said it was scaling back its operations due to paucity of funds, but does not intend to halt operations.

Online drug marketplace 1mg secured funding from Swiss investment firm HBM Healthcare Investments in May this year. The investment was an addition to the startup’s Series B funding, which the company had raised in April. Maverick Capital Ventures, and existing investors Sequoia Capital and Omidyar Network invested $15 million (Rs 100 crore) in a Series B round in 1mg.

In April 2016, Careongo, which runs a chain of co-branded online pharmacies, secured pre-Series A funding from Farooq Oomerbhoy of FAO Ventures and a group of other investors.

Online drug startups have been facing regulatory hurdles as the Drug Controller General of India has put a restriction on the sale of medicines online. However, startups in this segment claim that the regulator’s warning has not affected their business.

A number of brick-and-mortar chemists such as MedPlus and Guardian Lifecare, too, have ventured into the online segment. Bengaluru-based Practo, an appointment booking platform for patients and doctors, has also begun online delivery of medicines.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The fighting cancer by making changes to her lifestyle and eating healthy

A small swelling constantly reminds Radhika Singh of what is she up against — breast cancer. But the 51-year-old isn't on medication; she's trying to fight cancer by making changes to her lifestyle and eating healthy.

"There's no guarantee that the cancer won't come back after chemotherapy so I didn't want to go through it and deal with the side effects," says Singh, who moved from Delhi to Mashobra in Himachal Pradesh to be in a cleaner environment. Since 2010 when she got her cancerous lump removed, she's been on a strict diet of organic fruit and vegetables, which she grows herself, and avoids dairy and gluten (wheat and wheat products).

While Singh might have taken a drastic route by saying no to chemo, for other survivors, a cancer diagnosis offers a bittersweet opportunity to make lifestyle changes that may ultimately save their lives. The changes are simple: cut the crap (no smoking, drinking, processed food and sugars), exercise, and eat food that's free of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and growth hormones.

There's no clear scientific evidence to show that lifestyle and diet can cure cancer, but patients point out that there are no guarantees in life — all one can do is maximize your chances with healthy habits.

Amit Vaidya came to India from the US in 2012 after doctors told him that he didn't have long to live as his gastric cancer had returned after being in remission since 2009. He had undergone 70 rounds of chemo, and radiation therapy. "My decision to come to India was to get palliative care. As part of that plan, I changed my lifestyle and diet, and underwent cow therapy. To my surprise, I started getting better and stronger," he says.

He documented his experiences in the book 'Holy Cancer: How a cow saved my life'. Vaidya wakes up at 4.30am every day, meditates and does yoga, and walks 10km. He chews raw tulsi and neem leaves, and drinks a glass of warm water with organic honey before breakfast. He says it is very important to know where his food is coming from, and he lives close to the source of the food. "I only consume ghee and milk of desi cows, which have not been fed on a diet of hormones," says Vaidya, 38, who lives on Vypeen, an island off Kochi in Kerala. He says the lifestyle changes are life-long and cannot be abandoned if cancer goes into remission. Delhi-based nutritionist Ishi Khosla says people with cancer often seek her help to manage their symptoms with diet. While it doesn't work in every case, Khosla says "most people do feel some difference".

Anjali Sapra, an artist based in Delhi, says eating right can make a difference even while undergoing chemo. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, Sapra underwent surgery and chemo, which left her sense of taste and smell compromised, thus affecting her appetite. "It's important to eat well during chemo as it boosts your immunity. But most patients are unable to because of the side-effects of chemo. Even, carers, often, don't know what to cook for the patient," explains Sapra. Dr Ramesh Sarin, senior oncologist at Apollo Hospitals in Delhi, says there's no well-controlled study to support any diet that prevents cancer. "While some studies indicate sugar is bad for cancer, there's no solid study to say cut sugar completely from the diet. Similarly, we know that some insecticides have been shown to cause cancer but not all. So while eating organic is good, we cannot say eating non-organic food is bad," says Dr Sarin. Overall, oncologists encourage patients to cut down on refined sugar, consume fruit and vegetables, and avoid red meat.

Mumbai's The Health Awareness Centre (THAC), an institution that promotes healthy eating and living, sees about five people with cancer every day. Started by nutritionist Dr Vijaya Venkta, THAC recently conducted a small study in collaboration with Tata Memorial Hospital on the effect of diet and lifestyle on managing cancer.

During the study, five palliative cancer patients in Bhakti Vedanta Hospital (Mira Road), were exposed to a corrective diet and corrected exposure to sunlight for 14 days. At the end of the period, four patients reported no symptoms, one had reduced symptoms and all were on reduced dosage of morphine. "We have seen patients benefiting from such changes. In some cases, tumours have reduced, in some the size has remained the much each person improves is different. But, clearly, food seems to the pharmacy now," says Anju Venkat, nutritionist at THAC.

The invention of a ‘super condom’ by a team of researchers headed by an Indian American researcher of HIV and AIDS

The breakthrough invention of a ‘super condom’ by a team of researchers headed by an Indian American researcher has opened an innovative way to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS by killing the virus through antioxidants contained in the condom.

The new condom was developed by Professor Mahua Choudhury and her research team at Texas A&M University. She claims that it would help in fighting the spread of the deadly virus.The super condom is made of an elastic polymer called hydrogel, which has antioxidants collected from plants that have the power to kill the HIV virus.

Choudhury, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, said in a statement, “We are not only making a novel material for condoms to prevent the HIV infection, but we are also aiming to eradicate this infection, if possible.”

She added: “Supercondom could help fight against HIV infection and may as well prevent unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases and If we succeed, it will revolutionize the HIV prevention initiative.”

Choudhury who completed Molecular Biology, Biophysics and Genetics degree in India got her Ph.D. in the US. Since then she has been researching diabetics and obesity epidemic.

Choudhury was one among the 54 people who were awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grant for Global Health Challenge.

This year’s challenge for the winners was to develop a latex free condom to help battle the epidemic of HIV, which has by now affected 35 million people in the world.

“If you can make it really affordable, and really appealing, it could be a life-saving thing,” Choudhury said.

The material used in the condom to kill the virus is already in use as a water-based hydrogel for medical purposes such as contact lenses.

In addition to protecting from STDs and pregnancy, the super condom’s antioxidant quercetin is also capable of preventing the replication if HIV and in case if it breaks the quercetin would be released for additional protection.

The researchers also claim that the new design of the condom will escalate the sexual pleasure and people will use it more often.

The condom has already been created and is now awaiting patent approval so that it can go on sales in the market after testing.

Choudhury is hopeful that she can make the condom available to everyone including those in rural areas, where these types of resources are limited.

Since the HIV outbreak in 1981, the deadly virus has killed 39 million people worldwide.