Pharma industry seeks enhanced fund allocation to boost R&D
Apart from seeking simplification of various processes to enhance ease of doing business, the industry expects continuation of tax concessions on various drugs in the upcoming Budget
Even as the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is all set to present the Union Budget on February 1, the pharmaceutical industry in the country is seeking enhanced fund allocation for the sector to boost research and development (R&D) with incentives to spur drug discovery. The industry is hoping that considerable focus will be given to the pharma sector in the wake of the ongoing pandemic which has wreaked unimaginable havoc on humans as well as on economy.
Apart from seeking simplification of various processes to enhance ease of doing business, the industry expects continuation of tax concessions on various drugs in the upcoming Budget.
An increase in the budgetary allocation from the current 1.8 per cent of the GDP to 2.5-3 per cent, as envisaged in the National Health Policy 2017, along with a separate allocation for the bio-pharmaceutical sector R&D is imperative, said S Sridhar, president, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) which represents the research-based pharmaceutical companies in India.
In ensuring access to Covid-19 vaccines and medicines, the pharmaceutical industry in India saw significant momentum during the last more than one year. So, this year's Budget will be crucial to accelerate sectoral growth and access to innovative health solutions across various diseases including Covid, Sridhar said, adding that the government should continue with the existing customs duty concessions for medicines as any discontinuation thereof in the current scenario will impact the accessibility of such medicines at affordable price.
Echoing the need to boost R&D, the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) Secretary General Sudarshan Jain said that for the knowledge-driven pharmaceutical industry, innovation and R&D is critical as this will help in meeting unmet patient needs in an affordable manner. "We are looking forward to the budget that will help in fuelling innovation and advancing the Indian pharmaceutical industry from Make in India to Discover and Make in India", he said.
Additional measures towards improving ease of doing business in the pharma sector with emphasis on simplification and making the process industry-friendly, with specific provisions for eliminating bottlenecks will encourage investment, thus, contributing to the long-term growth of the industry, he added.
Meanwhile, the healthcare sector in the country has also echoed the same feeling. "The need of the hour is to allocate funds and introduce targeted skilling and medical education programmes which can address the shortage of skilled healthcare manpower in the nation. The healthcare sector has not been able to derive the benefits of the GST transition. In fact, the embedded taxes in the sector have increased in the post-GST regime compared to pre-GST scenarios. Therefore, it is vital to rationalize GST sto unlock the embedded credit which is trapped in the healthcare value chain," said Harsh Mahajan, president, NATHEALTH, a healthcare industry body.
In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, it is crucial to create and build infrastructural and linked integrated capabilities like telemedicine, home and senior care so that people can access quality and critical healthcare services equitably. The pandemic has made us realise the need of providing hospitals in tier-2 and tier-3 towns with adequate infrastructure such as diagnostic centers, oxygen beds, ICUs and oxygen plants through increased budget outlay and greater investments. This will also help in creating employment opportunities and increase health system resilience, Mahajan said.
(The author is freelance journalist with varied experience in different fields)