The Pandemic and the Pharmaceutical Industry


The novel coronavirus illness (COVID-19) was discovered and diagnosed in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11th. COVID-19 spread quickly over the next few months, infecting over 2.5 million individuals by April 23, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic had an economic impact on the world, particularly the pharmaceutical industry.


While there is no definitive treatment for this novel infectious disease at this time, the pharmaceutical industry is assisting governments in meeting unmet COVID-19 needs, ranging from research and development on potential treatment strategies to balancing the medicines supply chain in times of crisis. Along with this, pharmaceutical industries are battling to retain natural market flow, as the recent pandemic has harmed access to critical medications at a reasonable cost, which is the primary goal of any pharmaceutical system.


The COVID-19 outbreak has stunned the country with over a million deaths. India's healthcare sector is crucial in supporting the country in accomplishing this arduous undertaking. During the height of the crisis, hospitals struggled to cope with the surge of patients, while the pharmaceutical industry strained to meet raw-material manufacturing demands. Then there were shortages of life-saving treatments.


As the World Health Organisation made usage of hand sanitisers mandatory to prevent the infection from the virus, the market share for sanitisers reached a new height. Sugar mills and ethanol distilleries, with the support of the Central and State governments, increased India's hand sanitiser production capacity by 1,000 times to 30 lakh litres per day, from an annual production of only 10 lakh litres, to address the challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.


India's pharmaceutical business is the world's third-largest in terms of production, and the country's economy generates 60% of all vaccinations. This equates to 40 to 70 per cent of the supply needed to meet WHO demand for DPT and BCG vaccinations, as well as 90 per cent of global demand for the measles vaccine.


Pandemics can also lead to a country's economic collapse, which can stifle the pharmaceutical industry's expansion. When China and India, the world's two largest suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and generics, imposed initial export bans in response to COVID-19, most countries experienced shortages of both products, which slowed the manufacture of finished products and made certain medicines scarce, particularly in emerging markets like Iran.


Furthermore, API and final product shortages resulted in price rises, prompting governments to assess if their supply chains are resilient enough or could benefit from a more self-sufficient approach. To avoid future shortages, some governments amended legislation to prohibit the importation of generics and APIs, such as President Trump's "Buy American" Order in the United States. Other regulations were changed to expedite approvals for pandemic-related treatments and compulsory licencing, which is only available to WTO members, causing a delay in the approval of non-pandemic-related treatments.


Challenges give birth to opportunities, and this is especially true in the pharmaceutical business, which is currently dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and adapting to changing conditions. Many firms have begun to boost their team's productivity through high-tech implementations and investments in R&D.


Artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, cloud technology, and other digital investments are being used by life science organisations all around the world to improve the production cycle. As a result, benefits such as assisting in the identification of relevant medications for specific ailments, conducting cost-effective drug design trials, determining the best times to begin and adjust medical treatments, and gathering health data have been realised.


The crisis affected everyone equally, but not everyone was able to bear the effects in the same way. Regardless of its injuries, the pharmaceutical business handled the crisis exceptionally well, with strong crisis responses. The pharmaceutical business had a poor digital marketing reputation, but having a strong online presence during these key moments, as well as working with the right providers, helped the crisis management processes run more smoothly while dealing with rapidly evolving practises. Event cancellations are preventing pharma companies throughout the world from launching new goods and services. As a result of digitization in the pharmaceutical business, learning has been incorporated into future crisis plans and operations.


Pharmaceutical companies can address the labour shortage by enacting a number of safety regulations and offering bonuses to workers who return to work. Pharma companies, like many others, can enhance their financial performance by minimising superfluous costs, revising capital expenditures, adding new products to their pipeline, renegotiating leases, and utilising digital platforms to hold meetings and carry out relevant activities.


In addition, the government has assisted the pharmaceutical industry in a number of ways. Since the medication was determined to be important in the event of a Covid-19 pandemic, it had been subjected to export and distribution restrictions. In addition, the government restricted the export of testing kits and fixed pricing for medical devices, surgical masks, and sanitisers.


Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute, commended Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for the current liberalised covid-19 vaccination programme and financial aid to vaccine manufacturers.


Many specialists believe that new coronavirus strains are contributing to the rise, such as a more infectious indigenous form found in 61 per cent of samples genome analysed in Maharashtra, the worst-affected state. In numerous locations, hospital beds, oxygen supplies, prescriptions, and even lodging in morgues and crematoriums are all in short supply.


According to Economic Times, to give the Indian pharmaceutical industry a much-needed boost, various representatives from the industry, as well as NITI Aayog, suggest that it is critical to promote approvals of pharmaceutical infrastructure and development, obtain clearance from the environment ministry, and offer subsidies and tax exemptions. In addition, post-pandemic spending on personal cleanliness and healthcare would rise, which the pharmaceutical industry can take advantage of to boost its prospects.


The Pharmaceutical Industry did see an unusual boom during the pandemic, but its accessibility to the lower section of the population still remains a question. The shares of certain medicines and equipment did reach a new height, but the reach of the same to the lower sections is somewhat under-satisfying.



References

  1. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/markets/commodities/indias-hand-sanitizer-production-capacity-grew-1000-times-during-covid-19-pandemic/article34832010.ece

  2. https://www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/article/140389/the-pandemic-and-the-pharmaceutical-world/

  3. http://www.pharmabiz.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?aid=135427&sid=9

  4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40199-020-00358-5

  5. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/pharma/challenges-faced-by-pharma-companies-during-pandemic-nikkhil-k-masurkar/82403218

  6. https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/health/covid-19-impact-pharma-industry-trends-for-2021/2277793/


Written by Abhivyakti Mishra (m.abhivyakti@gmail.com)

Edited by Mehak Vohra

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