Inching towards self-reliance: India now makes 35 drug raw materials that were imported before

New Delhi: Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Dr Mansukh Mandaviya has said that of the 53 drug raw materials for which India was dependent on imports, 35 are now being manufactured in India.

“Under the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, 32 new plants for the production of APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) have been set up and production has now started in 35 of the 53 identified APIs. Under the scheme, the government is providing viability gap funding to reduce dependence on imports,” Mandaviya told reporters in New Delhi.

About 66 per cent of India’s API imports come from China.

APIs, also known as bulk drugs, are the key raw material used for manufacturing medicines. For instance, paracetamol is the API for Crocin.

Indian drugmakers import around 70 per cent of their total bulk drugs from China. In the 2018-19 fiscal, the government had informed the Lok Sabha that the country’s firms imported bulk drugs and intermediates worth $2.4 billion from China.

APIs go into the making of essential drugs, such as antibiotics, anti-HIV medicines among others, and for these 53 APIs, 90 per cent of the amount consumed in India came from abroad.


Also read: CSIR working on making 56 bulk drugs in India as Modi govt wants to cut imports from China


Dependence on China

India’s dependence on China for the raw materials of its otherwise formidable pharmaceutical industry has been a matter of concern for many years. This has led to questions being asked about the bargaining power it gives Beijing against New Delhi.

These concerns gained urgency in the wake of the 2017 Doklam stand-off when bilateral relations hit a new low. The Covid lockdown in China in the first months of 2020, which stoked fears of a shortage in India, only made the clamour for API self-sufficiency louder, with the subsequent stand-off at Ladakh further complicating relations between the two neighbours.

commerce ministry statement in 2021 said PLI schemes are a “cornerstone of the government’s push for achieving an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India)”.

“The objective is to make domestic manufacturing globally competitive and to create global champions in manufacturing. The strategy behind the schemes is to offer companies incentives for incremental sales from products manufactured in India, over the base year. They have been specifically designed to boost domestic manufacturing in sunrise and strategic sectors, curb cheaper imports and reduce import bills, improve the cost competitiveness of domestically manufactured goods, and enhance domestic capacity and exports,” the statement read.


Also Read: What are APIs and how they threaten India’s status of a ‘pharmacy to the world’


Rs 15,000 cr provided so far 

Under the PLI scheme for APIs, a financial incentive will be given to eligible manufacturers 41 eligible products, which cover 53 APIs, for a period of six years. Ministry sources say approximately Rs 15,000 crore has been spent under the scheme since it was notified last year.

Ministry sources also said that there was nothing unusual about the recently announced 10 per cent rise in the cost of essential medicines.

“Essential medicine prices are linked to the wholesale price index (WPI). If the WPI goes down, they can go down too. This year the WPI went up by 10 per cent, hence the revision, even though the price of APIs went up,” said a source.

(Edited by Manoj Ramachandran)


Also read: China targeting India? Import costs of paracetamol, antibiotics ingredients see 100% jump



Source: The Print