Making Pharma Relevant

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Satish Kaul, Regional Director Emcure

Lured by a liberal industrial policy to the Jammu plains, pharma majors want policy makers to initiate change that will make the sector suit J&K’s requirements. In the makeover, they would require insulated and cleaner spaces to operate from, reports R S GULL from Jammu.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers in Jammu suggest the state government should change its priorities. Companies operating in the state for last many years continue to depend on outside states for raw material and human resource as neither of the two is available locally. An intervention to alter this equation will change the entire market, they believe.

“The government must stop inviting new investments in the pharma sector,” Satish Kaul, Regional Director Emcure, who also heads the Pharmaceutical Association said. “The government should invest in a world class Research and Development facility in the state which is a high value exercise and does not require lot of land, power and human resource.” Kaul said.

Kaul shuttled between US and India for most of his high-end managerial career. He was the last regional head of Moral Overseas, a unit of Bhilwara group that had major apparel manufacturing facility in Jammu’s Bari Brahamna. After the labour unrest that had plagued the unit was managed, its exports became increasingly non-remunerative in a stiff competitive market.

Kaul oversaw the unit’s “honourable” closure that, among other things, included paying Rs 26 crore to the employees under VRS. Part of the facility was later taken over by the Emcure and refurbished to accommodate a state of the art pharma facility that Kaul heads now.

“Our own R&D facility will help J&K reverse the brain drain, connect the research with the raw herbal universe of the state, fetch high returns and trigger the beginning of a larger industry,” Kaul believes. Not a single item that is available in J&K goes as raw material to any of the pharma companies operating in the state despite the fact that Kashmir alone can sustain a number of perfume and cosmetics production units.

Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu (formerly RRL) has done some basic work in identification of local materials and creating certain backward and forward marketing linkages. Over the years, it has entered into a series of agreements with various companies manufacturing wellness and pharma products.

IIIM research suggests that almost half of the 20 best selling drugs across the globe can be manufactured in J&K. Nearly 572 plant species with medicinal importance have been reported from Kashmir of which around 555 have been identified and are commercially exploited. More than 100 of these plants are endemic to Kashmir alone. The institute has tie-ups with various companies that purchase various oils that IIIM manufactures within its facility. These include Belladonna leaves and Argot, Lavender oil, and Kashmir Rose oil. “A Mumbai pharmaceutical company Nicholas & Piramal is manufacturing a drug that we call St. John’s Worst. It needs two different herbs and these are so abundant in Kashmir especially in the Zabarwan forests and Shankaracharya hillock in Srinagar that people could get millions,” revealed a scientist who has worked at IIIM. “In Jammu, the Tinospora plant found in the plains has a great international demand because it helps in immune modulation and is a pre-requisite in the manufacture of drugs used in cancer and tuberculosis.” Earlier the IIIM was supplying Dhawan International Achenicia and Vlaryana plants.

Pharma leaders say the basic spade work is already done and it just needs up-scaling with special emphasis. “It can create wonders for us,” Kaul said. “Given the new units requiring land and energy, the government may not immediately manage vast swathes of land so it should prefer a specific area.”

But that does not mean the existing industry will be neglected. The immediate requirement for the companies is a separate, cleaner zone wherefrom they will operate, far away from other polluting industrial units. It will enable them to tap better and bigger off shore markets.

“Most of the companies operating from here (Jammu) are supplying to off shore markets but the system of manufacturing facility by various countries prevent us from expansion,” R R Choksi of Cadila said. “A pharma facility requires a better surrounding and it can not function in the neighbourhood of a cement factory, for instance.”

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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