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Pharma: Curing the lifestyle malaise
Jun 10, 2008

Rising lifestyle diseases likely to cost India dear
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a recent report has stated that India could incur losses to the tune of US$ 237 bn by 2015 due to a rise in lifestyle or acute diseases such as diabetes, stroke and cancer due to unhealthy workplaces. For China, the same has been pegged at US$ 558 bn, for Russia and the UK at US$ 33 bn apiece. This could be detrimental to the country since a workforce saddled with health problems will weigh heavy on the economic performance of the country. The report suggests that enhancing employee productivity and stabilising healthcare costs could spur the senior management to invest in promoting healthy workplaces in the future.

  • Pharma: A change in lifestyle?

    An unenthusing disease profile
    India is expected to garner the dubious distinction of having the highest number of diabetic and cardiac patients in the world by 2025. As far as diabetes is concerned, India's 32 m diabetics account for one-fourth of the global diabetic population. These numbers are estimated to grow to 57.2 m by year 2025 (Source: Biocon). With regards to cardiovascular diseases, India will have 60% of the world’s heart patients by 2020 (Source: CSI). Cancer, too, is progressing at a fast clip in India. These statistics reveal that the incidence of these diseases is high consequently leading to a higher demand for lifestyle drugs.

    …but will that profit Indian pharma companies?
    In a market, which is facing increasing competition, the focus of Indian pharma companies is shifting towards drugs catering to lifestyle diseases. As a result, many of these companies are aligning their product portfolios to ensure that lifestyle drugs corner a larger slice of the domestic revenue pie. Demand for chronic therapy drugs generally tends to be recurring, ensuring continuous demand for these drugs. Also, growth from new product launches in this segment generally comes from newer prescriptions, as existing patients are not comfortable switching their medications. Majority of the Indian companies have been recording double-digit growth rates as far as chronic therapy related drugs are concerned, despite increased competition, giving an indication of the potential for the same.

    Looking to target cancer
    In recent times, oncology (cancer treatment) has been finding a prominent place in the product portfolios of domestic companies such as Ranbaxy, Dr. Reddy’s, Nicholas Piramal, Biocon and Dabur Pharma. Amongst them, Dabur Pharma has an edge in this field in terms of launching generic oncology products in India, and in the regulated and the semi-regulated markets. Biocon, whose major focus is on biotechnology, introduced the monoclonal antibody ‘Biomab EGFR’ used for treating head and neck cancers in the Indian markets and has started registering this product in the semi-regulated markets as well. Ranbaxy and Dr. Reddy’s too have adopted the biotechnology route to launch products in the field of cancer, while Nicholas Piramal’s lead compound in its NCE (new chemical entity) R&D portfolio is an oncology product.

    Thus, just as global innovator companies are increasingly focusing their R&D efforts in launching more products in the oncology space, Indian companies, realising the rising incidence of the disease are steering their efforts towards this field, albeit with a greater focus on generics. This will ensure greater visibility in terms of revenues and profits going forward.

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