Nirmala Sitharaman asks pharmaceutical industry to reduce dependence on API imports

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday raised serious concerns over increasing imports of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and asked the experts and industry to work in the direction to reduce the dependence on imports.

“When we are setting up pharmaceutical and biotechnology hubs… the dependence on imported APIs worries me a lot,” she said at the Global Biotechnology Summit. Sitharaman said as India is a global hub of generic medicines and biotechnology centres, industry, academia and experts should work in reducing the increasing imports.

India is hugely dependent on China for import of the APIs, which are the raw materials for medicines. Indian firms imported APIs and intermediates worth nearly $3 billion (nearly Rs 20,343 crore) in 2010-11 with China alone accounting for $1.88 billion (nearly Rs 12,748.28 crore).
Nirmala Sitharaman

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The minister said both developing and developed countries are dependent on India for affordable generic medicines. Further, the Commerce Ministry is requesting the states to give additional concessions in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the pharma-related units to reduce the API imports.
Talking about start-ups, she said the government’s action plan for the sector focuses on all kinds of start-ups including areas related with biotechnology sector and not only on IT and e-commerce.
“We hope that 1,000 to 1,500 start-ups will come in another four years, who will be focusing on biotechnology,” she said adding the Department of Pharmaceuticals are expected to launch a Rs 1,000 crore venture capital fund in order to help start-ups which will focus on biotechnology.
The move would give a boost to the domestic pharmaceutical industry and provide cheaper loans to entities looking to establish or upgrade manufacturing facilities.
Sitharaman also said the ministry is taking steps to make the patent regime easier and simpler for start-ups.
The ministry is recruiting more people and modernising the patent offices to reduce the pendency of applications, she said adding India has the second largest number of institutions approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) after America. “It shows the kind of experts and perfection in the field of biotechnology,” she said.
She expressed confidence that India would meet the target of turning biotechnology into a $100 billion (nearly Rs 6.8 lakh crore) industry by 2025.
Speaking at the occasion, Minister of Science and Technology Y S Chowdary said the next decade is going to be the biotechnology revolution after the 25 years of IT revolution. Chowdary said there is a need to involve centre, state, industry, NGOs and other stakeholders to promote the biotechnology sector in the country.
“Biotechnology is a time dependent thing so there is a need for us to do as many as possible research… we should make sure that all our institutions have to come on one platform to exchange views,” he added. Chowdary also said ministries including agriculture, health, human resource development, chemical and fertiliser, commerce and industry, and science and technology would have to work together for the sector.

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He asked the people who are associated with the ministry “they should start becoming entrepreneurs and they can be the guidelines for others”. The minister has also emphasised on the need of focusing on start-ups in the biotechnology sector.