Sunday, Dec 04, 2022

Olympics to drug discovery: India a laggard?

Many of the neglected diseases where the developed world does not invest in research are all found in India.

pills-759 (Representational Image)

There is much heart burn in the country as our sportspersons are under performing and not garnering enough medals at the ongoing Olympics, but this applies to many sectors including discovery of new drugs that can help keep India healthy and ultimately help it compete better at future Olympics.

Even though India is dubbed as ‘the pharmacy of the world’ and is home to some of the world’s worst infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, dengue, kala azar yet in the last 70 years since independence only nine new drug molecules have been discovered and commercialised in the country. An abysmal record on drug discovery for a country of 1.25 billion people.

India will soon be the diabetes capital of the world and every sixth person who walks on Earth is an Indian yet the country has invested precious little towards new drug discovery.

Many of the neglected diseases where the developed world does not invest in research are all found in India.

Subscriber Only Stories
Baramati not for taking: Supriya Sule seeks to make her point via Mumbai ...Premium
The Neu Air India Flight PathPremium
Row over Paresh Rawal remarks | Ahmedabad’s Bengali migrants have a...Premium
Mon killings: A year later | ‘Not dead, nor alive…  just suffering’Premium

T Balaganesh, a reputed pharma researcher, said, “Developing drugs against neglected diseases is a challenge as the market size may be small in financial terms.” Alarmed at the situation, Science Minister Harsh Vardhan said, “India still has a long way to go in pharma research and development.” His words are noteworthy since Vardhan is not  only a practising physician but also India’s former health minister.

Ironically according to government data, India is often dubbed the “pharmacy of developing world”.

Today India ranks third in terms of volume of production of medicines with 10 per cent share of the global market by volume and 14th largest by value. Every third child vaccinated in the world under the auspices of the United Nations gets a vaccine that has been produced in India.


But these alluring facts are mostly due to the production of generic drugs. India has been a laggard in discovering new drugs, it also costs upwards of a billion dollars to take a new molecule through the complicated regulatory process.

Just take the case of TB. Every day about 1000 people die of this curable infectious disease which means every 90 seconds one life is lost due to this infectious disease in India. Yet no new drugs have been developed by India. The most recent TB drug to be introduced for multi-drug resistant TB patients is drug co-discovered by an Indian but working in Belgium for a multi-national company.

First published on: 21-08-2016 at 11:19:02 am
Next Story

China blame ‘fierce’ competition after Rio flop

Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments