Winds of change

Winds of change

A couple of issues back, we had launched a debate on which US presidential candidate would be the best bet for Indian pharmaceutical companies. To our surprise, normally very vocal spokespersons shied away from expressing their opinions as they deemed it a too sensitive topic. As it turns out, both candidates know that if they want to revamp the US healthcare system and put it back on track, they need affordable medication, and Indian pharma companies fit the bill completely. Innovator companies hope January will see Senator McCain in the White House, while generic players feel Senator Obama will be better for their cause. But whichever candidate wins, innovators know that the next four years will be tough with increasing patent expiries. Generic players may benefit from increased sales but they will have to work with more stringent safety and compliance norms. Either ways, 2009 promises to bring winds of change in the US healthcare industry and since Indian pharma players regard this as their largest market, they will be watching very closely. Our Management Cover highlights the key issues in this debate.

Just as the pro-generics slant of both US president hopefuls augurs well for Indian pharma companies, global pharma chains are eyeing the pharma retail space in India. As the Market Story points out, policies are not yet in place to attract such Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Indian drug manufacturers themselves are caught between siding with the established distribution structure of distributors and chemists and supplying directly to retail chains. No pharma companies are willing to go on record but those who have gone directly to the retail chains have been blacklisted by the older order, because it takes away their margins. So even though medicines may be available at lower prices at these retail chains, there is substantial opposition to this model. This issue needs to be sorted out in such a way that the consumer/patient benefits, both by way of increased access and better price. We wind up this issue with a Research Cover on the controversial COX 2 category of drugs, while the Life Cover takes a fresh look at the eternal HR dilemma between ‘book-smart’ or ‘street-smart’ recruits.

Viveka Roychowdhury
viveka.r@expressindia.com