With significant contributions to generics, India’s Pharma sector is all set to further extend its R&D capabilities: Nikkhil Masurkar, Executive Director, Entod Pharmaceuticals

Starting from a position where only 5 percent of the medicines used in the country were produced in India in 1969, to present times where 80 percent of the medicines in the pharma market are being manufactured in India, Nikkhil Masurkar told Financial Express.com.

With significant contributions to generics, India’s Pharma sector is all set to further extend its R&D capabilities: Nikkhil Masurkar, Executive Director, Entod Pharmaceuticals
The Indian pharma industry has been showing rapid progress and growth over the last two decades, Nikkhil Masurkar said.

India’s Pharmaceutical industry has changed a lot in recent years. Undoubtedly, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also led to a paradigm shift in the country’s Pharmaceutical sectors. Entod Pharmaceutical, established in the year 1977, will be celebrating its foundation day on 11th July on the occasion of the 100th birth anniversary of its founder, the late G V Masurkar. ENTOD Pharmaceuticals is now a global brand with specialized expertise in the ENT, Ophthalmic and Dermatology medicine fields after Masurkar’s continued passion for quality, research, and innovation. He was also the man and brains behind the popular Indian paracetamol brand “CROCIN” which presently is a household painkiller brand in India.

The Pharma major started by the “Crocin Man of India” has over four decades of pharmaceutical expertise in Ophthalmology, ENT, and Dermatology medicine, and with an impressive portfolio comprising over 250 products, 1000 personnel and highly experienced Quality Assurance, Production and R&D teams. Financial Express.com reached out to Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director, Entod Pharmaceuticals and he talked about how the Indian Pharmaceutical sector changed over the years, its challenges and what are its key expectations among others. Excerpts:

How has the Indian Pharmaceutical sector changed over the years? What are your expectations in a post-covid world?

The Indian pharma industry has been showing rapid progress and growth over the last two decades. Starting from a position where only 5 percent of the medicines used in the country were produced in India in 1969, to present times where 80 percent of the medicines in the pharma market are being manufactured in India. Over the last 2 decades, the Indian pharma industry has grown tenfold and established itself as a leader in the global generic pharma market as well as the vaccine landscape and is often referred to as the “Pharmacy of the World.”

With significant contributions toward generics, the pharma industry in India is all set to further extend its R&D capabilities and provide cutting-edge products in a post-pandemic world. The inception of digital technologies like AI, ML, IoT, AR and VR are further expected to improve R&D helping to conduct clinical tests in less time and add innovation to the products as well as improve compliance and efficiency in manufacturing.

In recent years, how the eye disorders have advanced, and how Entod Pharmaceuticals addressed these changes?

Over the years, eye disorders have significantly increased in India. Around 11.2 million Indians suffer from glaucoma and 1.1 million have gone blind, including children. Also, studies indicate that 45 per cent or nearly half of India’s urban population is likely to be affected by dry eyes by the year 2030. Myopia is another huge problem. The population suffering from myopia in India in 2010 was just over 28 per cent and is expected to rise to 34 per cent by 2020 and approximately 50 per cent in 2050 which is a major concern. As per an AIIMS study, 17 per cent children or 1 out of 6 children aged between 5-15 years are suffering from myopia. In India cataract is responsible for 50-80 percent of bilateral blindness. The Union Health Ministry’s survey of 2015-19 has shown that the prevalence of Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) in India is 16.9% while the prevalence of sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy is 3.6 per cent.

We specialize in Ophthalmic, ENT and Dermatology medicines, and cater to the therapeutic needs of patients worldwide. Globally we have over 250 products in our portfolio. Our products are sold in over 55 countries including the EU, UK , Africa and Asia. Our specialty range includes eye drops, eye ointments, eye gels, intracameralinjectables, ear drops, nasal spray, creams, ointments, lotions and solid & liquid orals designed for global supply. Our therapeutic areas of expertise include dry eyes, glaucoma, eye infections, post-cataract & post-LASIK medication, upper & lower respiratory tract infections, ear infections, analgesia and many more. We also have MYATRO 0.01% eye drops used to treat eye problems like myopia, especially in children when a child can clearly see nearby objects but has problems seeing distant objects. Recently, we got the Nod from DCGI to carry out the Phase 3 Trials of 0.05% Atropine. Subject to a successful demonstration of safety and efficacy in clinical studies, we would be the first company to launch this in India.

Myopia is one of the most common eye defects. What has Entod Pharmaceuticals done in the treatment segment of Myopia? Can we expect a complete cure of Myopia anytime soon?

As already said we have the MYATRO 0.01% eye drops used to treat eye problems like myopia, especially in children when a child can clearly see nearby objects but has problems seeing distant objects. Recently, we got the Nod from DCGI to carry out the Phase 3 Trials of 0.05% Atropine. Subject to a successful demonstration of safety and efficacy in clinical studies, we would be the first company to launch this in India. Low-Dose Atropine eye drops happen to be one of the most viable therapeutic options available to slow down the progression of myopia rapidly and improve a child’s vision.

In the current times, what are the key challenges that the Indian Pharmaceutical sector is facing? What needs to be done to improve it?

● A lack of a stable pricing and policy environment.

● Lack of capabilities in the innovation space-India is rich in its manpower and talent. The government needs to invest in research initiatives and talent to grow India’s innovation.

● Collection and analysis of huge amounts of data.

● In the pharma sector, there is a huge need for faster, more accurate and transparent operations in all the fields.

Improving communication between the industry stakeholders and regulators would help build a stronger pharma platform. Policies need to be framed to develop more faith around drug/medicine costs to a steady regulatory atmosphere. Another suggestion is to focus on API manufacturing so that we can less rely on imported APIs. Lastly, the adoption of technological tools can contribute a lot of opportunities for business transformation.

How is Entod Pharmaceuticals keeping up with the legacy of GV Masurkar? How did Entod Pharmaceuticals grow and changed after him?

11th July 2022 will be observed as Mr. G.V Masurkar’s 100th birth anniversary. The company has achieved several milestones surpassing all the challenges. With the eternal guidance and blessings of Mr G V Masurkar, the company has grown from strength to strength and transformed into one of the fastest-growing pharmaceutical companies in the Ophthalmic ENT and Dermatology markets worldwide. ENTOD Pharmaceuticals which started as a passion project of Mr G V Masurkar turned out to be the greatest purpose of his life. His specialisedexpertise in formulation development and pharmaceutical manufacturing technologies allowed him to pioneer the development and manufacture of niche medicines that were not available elsewhere during those times but were greatly required in medical practice.Starting off as a contract manufacturer, ENTOD quickly grew its field strength over the years to become one of the fastest growing specialty pharma companies in India. Today ENTOD operates both in the domestic and overseas markets with a presence in over 55 countries worldwide. Currently ENTOD has more than 250 specialty medicines in its product range with over 1000 employees worldwide. With consistent YOY growth exceeding 35% in the last 5 years, ENTOD is poised to be the market leader in the speciality segments in which it operates. ENTOD has also forayed into the medical cosmetics and ophthalmic surgical segments by collaborating with NuSkin London.

What are your plans for India and its healthcare sector in the coming years?

We have already launched new products and segments in India such as Derma segment known as Entod beauty London and Ophthalmic surgical division known as ‘HyTek’ which caters to hi-tech solutions for ophthalmic surgical needs. We have recently supported the AIOC 2022 organised by the AIOS and also,we have received an approval for the phase-3 trial of low dose atropine (0.05%) eye drops from DCGI. These eye drops are not yet commercially available anywhere in the world so after the successful demonstration we will be the first one to launch it in India. We will be coming with more ideas, services and expansions in the coming months as well.

What are the important products that you are working on currently? How many of them will be launched this year?

We are looking forward to launching 0.05% Atropine drops in India following the trials. We have recently launched India’s FIRST DCGI approved intracameral injection of Mydriatics and anesthetic which is Phenocaine Plus. We are getting tremendous positive response from Ophthalmologists. Phenocaine Plus is used during routine cataract surgery to get rapid and stable mydriasis and prolonged aneasthetic effect during operating procedure. We are also eyeing sales of more than 3 lakh strips of Macushield tablets in 2022. Macushield is a drug used to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy and improve overall eyesight. The drug is manufactured from 100% natural vegetarian sources (Bilberry extract, Pine Bark extract, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, etc.), consisting of potent macular pigments, essential vitamins & minerals to protect the macula from oxidative damage. Other than that, we have already launched a saffron-based eye care supplement, MACUSAFF capsule in India. Our saffron-based MACUSAFF veg capsules combine saffron and other important eye health nutrients that improves retinal flicker sensitivity, blood flow, protects RGC, reduces intraocular pressure and supports natural mechanisms of the eye.

After COVID-19, there has been a paradigm shift in how we perceive and treat, and prevent ailment? How can this change turn into an opportunity for the Indian Pharmaceutical industry?

As the nation suffered with the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak, India’s healthcare system stood up to the plate. In order to make India more self-sufficient in terms of medications, vaccinations, and other medical supplies and equipment, the government also changed its policy. By opening up the new doors, the pharma industry converted the Covid-19 challenges into an opportunity and India was being called the ‘pharmacy of the world’. Taking up the pandemic’s problems has helped set the stage for the future expansion of the healthcare and pharma sector. After Covid-19 India has seen the vast opportunity of medical tourism which expands the opportunities of the pharma sector as well. While serving the other nations, the pharma sector has opened up to adapt new technologies and drive towards digitization such as:

Telemedicine: For the pharmaceutical industry, the coronavirus outbreak presented an unique set of challenges and difficulties. All of its salespeople were confined inside as the nation entered an unprecedented state of lockdown. Even with the staggered opening of territory, the situation for manufacturers of prescription drugs doesn’t appear to be improving.Most likely, doctors would feel uncomfortable if there were more people present in their clinics or hospitals than just patients and caregivers. But telemedicine gave them the opportunity to rise again with their services which went really well.

Tele consultations and E pharmacy: If we talk about the teleconsultations and E pharmacy, it is one the factors that saved the life of pharma industry during the covid-19 and continuing till now. There was a time when we could not have any other option to go out and get medicine for ourselves while being sick but these E pharmacies and Tele consultations have made life easier for both consumers and the industry as well.

What are some of the biggest lessons COVID-19 has taught the pharma sector?

One of the biggest lessons learned from the pandemic is that if the government and pharma companies work together, we can accelerate the development of drugs and therapies and improve the health of our people in a much quicker way. Another lesson is that overall companies can be much more productive. If we concentrate on the very essence of what we are doing and focus on the essential one, we can improve productivity tremendously as what happened during the pandemic. In addition to that, we need a better system of crisis preparation and response, which means preserving what is currently in place and working together more closely. Also, we need to embrace digitisation as it allows companies to fully integrate their supply chains and improve operational processes, making them more responsive and adaptive. As a result, planning accuracy, manufacturing efficiency and productivity, inventory levels, and service levels improve.

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