Good Business Bad Science

India has many unique diseases both infectious as well as lifestyle related. It is important that Indian pharmaceutical industry invests in understanding basic biology behind such diseases and makes effort to discover drugs to treat these ailments. 

India has a big pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical market in India is estimated to be upwards of 10 billion dollars. Many companies export medicines to the West. Indian pharmaceutical companies have a market share of 14 billion dollars in the US. Indian drug makers do not engage in research involving discovering new drug. Indian companies make a copy of drugs discovered in the West by different chemical reaction. This process is called generic drug research. A generic drug has to simply show that it achieves similar blood level as the original molecule.
Drug discovery involves finding a new chemical and understanding what kind of biological reaction it produces in the body. A new chemical entity is tested in different experimental animal models for biological response and adverse effects. Major challenges of drug discovery research are high cost, long gestation and poor predictability. It is estimated that it may cost upward to 500 million dollars to bring a molecule from discovery stage to market place. It may take close to 10 years to bring a new drug to market. If 10 new chemical entities enter human trial, one may have statistical probability to become a drug.
Indian pharmaceutical companies have adapted as a business strategy generic drug research. This research though less profitable compared to innovative drug, generic research is much more predictable in terms of return on investment. This approach is a good business strategy. But such an approach stifles creativity of Indian scientists as well as deprives Indian patients of drugs for diseases endemic to India. To treat Indian diseases we have relied on medicines discovered in the west. Pharmaceutical research in the west concentrates on problems that are endemic to their population.

India has a huge population that is very diverse. Unique as we may be in our biological constitution, we also suffer from many ailments that are unique to our culture and environment. There is a desperate need to initiate drug discovery research in India to address issues faced by Indians. Research in tropical diseases  endemic to India, are not even being done by the big pharmaceutical companies. Besides there may be many lifestyle related as well genetic diseases that are unique to Indian population. It is the responsibility of Indian pharmaceutical companies to invest in discovering cure to ailments afflicting Indians. Indian government must play a role by making risk intensive drug discovery research more attractive for drug houses to invest in this direction.

Tags: Innovative Drug Discovery, Generic Drug Research, High Cost, High Risk, 
Long Gestation, Poor Predictability, Indian Disease,
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