On Saturday I was a panelist on the highly rated Indian public affairs television program, “The Big Fight.” The topic, the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling against Novartis and Gleevec.
My fellow panelists included an attorney from Ranbaxy, a representative from Novartis, an activist from Doctor’s Without Borders (MSF), a financial journalist, and a representative of the Indian pharmaceutical industry.
And it was, indeed, a big fight.
Expertly moderated by Vikram Chandra (one of India’s most respected journalists), the topics ranged from innovation to access to domestic industrial policy.
Mr. Chandra asked me if big multinational pharmaceutical companies made too much money. My response was that I didn’t know what “too much” meant – but that it was a good thing that most company profits are reinvested in R&D.
What I didn’t have time to say was that, as far as “excess profit” goes, that question is a lot more relevant to Indian drug manufacturers. Their profits last year were much higher than any innovator company. At Dr. Reddy’s net profits are up 88%. At Lupin profits are up 67%. And, at Sun Pharmaceuticals profit after taxes for the last year was 39%.
And while we’re in the pot calling the kettle black department, consider the claim by MSF India that access is the key issue. Really?
Less than 10% of India's CVD patients get even the most common medicines like diuretics and statins. Yet there are 10,500 licensed Indian drug manufacturers producing hundreds of generic anti-hypertensives and other CVD products on the market in India – very few of which reach India’s 45+ million diagnosed CVD patients.
The complete “Big Fight” can be found here.