Despite the several run-ins with the regulator over the years, Indian drug firms have managed to gain more than a foothold in the US generics market. They now command around a fourth of the TRx market, up from 19% in 2011. Among the companies that have successfully picked up share over the last five years is Lupin whose founder Desh Bandhu Gupta passed away on Monday. Gupta, who started life as a chemistry professor at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, in Rajasthan later moved to Mumbai (then Bombay) to work with a pharma company. In 1968, with Rs 5,000 from his wife’s savings, Gupta bought a small set up manufacturing vitamins.
A year shy of a half-century later, Lupin is the second-largest generics maker in India and the sixth largest in the world by sales. To be sure, much of the growth happened in his twilight years at the helm—he had handed over running of the company to his daughter and son in 2013. Nevertheless, Lupin was the first Indian generics firm to foray into Japan, by acquiring Kyowa in 2007. The drug maker did well in the US, being the first Indian player to sell cheap branded generics there. The US has always been a difficult market to crack—as imports from India surged in the late 2000s so did regulatory scrutiny by the US Food and Drug Administration. Several Indian firms, including Lupin, were found wanting.
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But that Lupin clawed its way to becoming the fifth-largest generics maker (by dispensed prescriptions) in that country by 2016 shows how well it has pulled itself up. Gupta the pioneer is at the foundation of Gupta the tall leader, and not just in business. Long before CSR spend became mandatory, the Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation—set up in 1988—was already working for development in rural India.
Similarly, even though margins were low in the anti-TB drug business—with prices controlled by the government—Lupin persisted with manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients that go into these drugs, becoming the largest supplier in the world.