India at the forefront in repurposing Drugs during COVID-19 to maintain supply chain across world: Expert Says

 In the wake of COVID-19, Pharma marketing is embracing digitisation. India’s share   in world’s Vaccine production is 50%, making it the largest supplier


Hardly any industry has left unaffected due to the unprecedented scourge of COVID-19. And the pharma industry is no exception to this. What sort of challenges Pharma industry has gone through during COVID-19 times? How digital adoption has been helpful and successful? How the new decade of pharma industry post COVID-19 will play out? And what will be the challenges of Pharma MSME and its solutions. These were some of the important topics discussed at length in the Emerging dimensions of Pharma Excellent eSummit held on 20th August 2020 organised by HEAL Health Connect Solutions in association with HealthScape.


The magnitude of COVID-19 is unprecedented in the modern world. And currently, only supportive care is available wherein repurposing of drugs is the most feasible approach to tackle the situation. Drug repurposing is nothing but using an approved drug for the treatment of a disease or medical condition other than what it is approved for. In COVID-19 scenario, this method is very useful in addressing the disease quickly since these drugs are approved, readily available off the shelf, their safety for human use is established and their side effect profile is well known. The technology of drug repurposing has the capability of breathing a new lease of life in the healthcare and pharma sector of India.


Speaking about the challenges that Pharma industry has faced during the lockdown and its move towards digital adoption in the Pharma Excellence eSummit-2020, Mr Sudarshan Jain, Secretary General of Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), said, “COVID-19 has posed the greatest humanitarian challenge, however, in such a time of crisis, healthcare and pharma industry have played an important role. And more significantly, India has been at the forefront in repurposing the drugs as it has a large share in supplying drugs to the world. The role of India has been immense in maintaining the supply chain to the world. Now, Indian pharma industry has been gearing up not only for ‘Make in India’ but also for ‘Make for the world’.

“Also, during COVID-19, we see the following things happening in the Indian pharma industry.

1.      Repurposing of the drugs

2.      Increase in the production of vaccines as it contributes to 50% of the total production of the world.

3.      The development of Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) in Indian pharma industry.

4.      Digital adoption in pharma industry.

5.      Adoption of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) in India

6.      Development of Human Resource

Indian Pharma industry has been already exporting drugs to 206 countries, and it will grow more, showing the new path to the world not only in manufacturing drugs but also in Research & Development”, added Mr Jain.


Elaborating on the challenges of the pharma industry in COVID-19 times and the immediate solution which could help tackle the griming situation in the Pharma Excellence eSummit-2020, Mr O P Singh, President Sales & Marketing, Cadila Pharma, said, “Repurposing of drugs may be an immediate solution to combat the pandemic and saving the lives of the people, and it has been also tried out by the Indian pharma industry. For example, Sepsis has been repurposed for the treatment of COVID-19 and found to be efficacious. Now, Indian pharma industry has been heading towards innovation.”


Throwing light on the digital adoption and its significance in pharma marketing in the Pharma Excellence eSummit-2020, Mr Vivek Srivastava, Co-founder & CEO, HealthCare at Home, said, “I have seen large scale digital adoption across the country during COVID-19. Even in home isolation care, we have used digital platforms for consultations with the doctors. By the use of digital technology, we have treated almost 2500 odd patients in home isolation. Digital adoption is booming everywhere including pharma marketing.”


Speaking on the significance of digital education required for the doctors, Dr G S Grewal, President Elect, DMA, said, “This is the grave reality that in Delhi, even 30% of doctors didn’t have desktops in pre-COVID times. So, along with digital adoption, its proper education and training is essentially required.”


Overviewing the pre and post COVID Indian pharma industry perspective, Dr Swadeep Srivastava, Founder & CEO, HEAL Health Connect Solutions asserted, “Although there has been slump in pharma industry in Apr-Jun quarter, yet from July, the Indian Pharma industry is bouncing back on track, and likely to grow 3%-5% in size during FY 2020-2021 as per India Ratings and Research. In June, the demand for cardiac drugs registered the strongest growth of 15.9 per cent y-o-y in terms of value and anti-diabetic segment grew at 12.7 per cent y-o-y due to continued buying during the period of the lockdown.


Commenting on the accessibility of drugs in India Mr Atul Sharma, Founder & Managing Director, HealthScape said, “In Indian pharma industry, manufacturing volumes after declining to 50%-60% in April 2020, given the strict lock-down, has improved significantly to 60%-80% of the original capacities during May-June 2020. In India, we have been in a reasonably good position in terms of the accessibility of the drugs as it is easily available over the counter compared to the eastern European countries.”


“Every adversity has a silver lining. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the digitisation in pharma industry. The Research & Development processes have been changed. Teleconsultations have been increasing. There has been a potential increase in the demands of anti-diabetic, respiratory and gastroenterology drugs during COVID. The trend of e-Pharmacy and e-Consultation have been increasing. Discussion for API in India has been gaining ground. Behavioural change in doctors have been taking place as they are turning digital. Now doctors (KOLs) are turning DOLs. Overall digital transformation is prevalent”, said Dr Karthik Anantharaman, Director ePharmacy & Private Label Business at


“COVID-19 has brought a number of change in old order. E-Pharmacy, Telemedicine and Home Isolation care have the new emergence. In the pandemic, due to physical distancing, we have started adopting digital mediums. The advancement of AI has enabled us to reimagine the new business model for pharma industry. Digital therapy algorithms have been taking place. You can bring in the momentum of growth. There has to be an organisational foray. New digital order is not only an enablement but also a business opportunity itself”, said, Mr Suresh Subramanian, Ex-Managing Director, Biocon.


“The Psunami like COVID-19 pandemic has posed so many problems before the mankind. However, the excellent human performance has made us combat the crisis. Initially, we also faced challenges. We have started 10 manufacturing units across the country with 9000 workers. Clinical trials outside the hospitals posed challenges. Most of the pharma companies are working proactively to ensure supply chain. We see that things will turn normal soon and the post COVID-19 phase looks fruitful”, Dr Dhananjay Bhakhle, Head of Medical Research at Lupin.  


“During COVID-19 pandemic, patients have faced tremendous problems in terms of the availability of drugs due to the disruption of supply chain. And this crisis has led to black marketing. I think from peoples’ perspective that supply chain must be ensured to have a check on the black marketing until vaccines come in place. One good thing we see that the pharma companies are reaching out to the patients directly by advertisements or through hospitals eliciting their credible distributors. This sort of initiative will bring transparency. We expect more humanitarian solutions from the pharma industry. We are passing through the crisis wherein they should perceive that it is not only about selling but also about serving. Pharma companies also need to ensure that supply chain is delivered properly to have a check over the black marketing. As a media, we will be doing our best bit”, said, Ms Viveka Roy Chowdhary, Editor, Express Pharma.


“The restrictions of COVID-19 have led the healthcare industry to embrace digitisation at various spheres. Earlier, a medical representative hardly found 30 seconds for the face meeting with doctors, but now, through digital meeting, they are getting more time. Likewise, 30% HCPs have started using digital platforms, which is a remarkable change seen”, said, Ms Arunima Mehta, Associate Director, Marketing Excellence, Abbott.


“In the wake of COVID-19, everyone is seeking for digital accessibility and actually it is happening in full swing. Patients are now demanding for digital tools. For so many chronic disease such as Asthma, Diabetes and for other respiratory problems, patients have started using digital tools. The trend of self-diagnostics by digital tool is increasing beyond sue bounds. Noe digital platforms have become fulcrum that will drive the ecosystem. The adoption is indeed fantastic, but how it is going to transform the ecosystem is yet to be seen”, said, Mr Abhishek Shah, Co-founder & CEO, Wellthy Therapeutics.


“COVID-19 has given us opportunity to rediscover ourselves. We started with lots of uncertainties, but by the time, we have learnt how to accommodate in the new normal. We are heading towards change. The doctor-patient relationship has completely changed. More and more patients are turning digital. This way we see that the health-seeking behaviour has been also changed. New ecosystem in healthcare has been emerging. Online pharmacy is setting new dimension of drugs delivery. Generic medicines are getting popular and hitting high demand”, said, Dr Sudhakar Gayakwad, Vice-President, FCB Health India.


“In COVID-19, a lot have changed. And I have divided these changes into 3 buckets. First, I see in short term perspective, mid-term and long term. In short term we need to identify and discover that how the things are unfolding and what should be the way out if the problems. The most pertinent point is ensuring how communication between healthcare and pharma industry is delivered. Now, I see that through social and online media, we have been in touch with doctors, and these changes are taking place at a faster pace, but traditional method should not be overlooked at all”, said, Dr Pratik Shah, Vice-President, Medical Affairs, Bharat Serum & Vaccine Ltd.


“In my vision, I see that we need to evolve in term of communication with doctors and engaging other stake holders. As per my experience what I have come across is that we have to evolve with here things in term of Insights, Context & Content (ICC) — this should be the tools for communication. Hence, marrying the evolving perspectives with these tools we can communicate well. There has been surge in the use of e-Pharmacy. I spot five things going to be happen post COVID-19 – Think brand; Make a corporate brand strategy as everything is rushing into healthcare space; No push; Profit through purpose and educated patients means empowered patients”, said, Ms Gauri Chaudhari, Co-founder, Brand Inner World.


“The outbreak of COVID-19 has posed a lot of challenges. For MSME sector, the greatest challenge is the flow of cash as the new products are in pipeline. In a situation, where the difference between demand and supply has widened largely, reaching out to the source of the business is the biggest challenge. Of the numerous routine problems, the odd configuration of supply chain has been posing hindrance. Market trends suggest that supply chain will improve significantly, but we need to overcome the current problem”, said, Dr Partha Roy Chowdhary, COO, Converge Biotech.


“Of course, we have the largest MSME after China, and this is supposed to be the back bone of Indian economy. Due to COVID-19 upsurge followed by the lockdown, the Indian MSME sector suffered the most with its collective production decreasing by more than 90 per cent. This sector comprises around 64 million enterprises and employs close to 120 million people. It contributes 30 per cent of India’s GDP and constitutes 45 per cent of exports”, said, Mr Pavan Karimbil, Senior Partner, HEAL Health Connect Solutions.