India is trying to regain its leadership position in the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) market which it lost to a particular country due to ‘predatory pricing’, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. In a webinar address on the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ organised by the Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, Sitharaman, without naming China, said that the particular country had eaten into India’s bulk drug exports market.
“In bulk drug export, India has led the way for the last 10 years. India used to produce its own API. Gradually, through predatory pricing, this API production slipped out. Because of just one country. We lost the bases we had. Today, nearly 68 per cent is dependent on one country from where we bring in APIs,” she said, adding that India would be looking to restore the API production capacity.
Other than APIs, the government would also look at increasing the manufacturing of basic diagnostics and medical testing equipment domestically, she said.
“We have made sure incentives are given to people who will come and set up business to produce APIs and to manufacture such diagnostic equipment also,” Sitharaman said.
Bulk drugs are the ingredients that give a drug its therapeutic effect. With the Narendra Modi government pushing for self-reliance in pharmaceuticals, the government has in the last few months announced measures to incentivise production of various essential drug ingredients. This includes calls to set up bulk drug parks as well as a Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to build self reliance in over 50 critical active pharmaceutical ingredients, including penicillin G, vitamin B1, dexamethasone, meropenem, atorvastatin and aspirin.
Other options, like a potential hike in import duties on some of these active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), were also being studied to help domestic bulk drug firms compete with cheaper imports.
To fuel the economy and get it back on track, public spending on infrastructure will need to increase in addition to a hike in rural area agriculture and non-agriculture spend, the minister said.