In a video-conference of SAARC members on Sunday, Prime Minister Modi proposed setting up a COVID-19 emergency fund .
An India-centric American pharma sector advocacy group has lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s action plan to combat the novel coronavirus with SAARC leaders, saying that his strategy to take proactive steps with graded response is a smart approach to tackle this unprecedented situation.
In a video-conference of SAARC members on Sunday, Prime Minister Modi proposed setting up a COVID-19 emergency fund with India committing USD 10 million initially for it, and asserted that the best way to deal with the pandemic was by coming together and not growing apart.
Apart from Modi, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Special Assistant to the Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza participated in the video-conference.
“Prime Minister Modi’s views and action plan to combat the novel coronavirus with SAARC leaders is laudable. His strategy to take proactive steps with graded response is a smart approach to tackle this complex and unprecedented situation,” said Karun Rishi, president of USA India Chamber of Commerce (USAIC).
Several other steps suggested by the prime minister such as: collaboration not confusion, creating common research platform to control epidemics, and evolving a common strategy can definitely set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet, Rishi said in a statement.
The deadly virus, which originated in China’s Wuhan city in December, has claimed over 6,500 lives and infected more than 169,000 people over 135 countries and territories.
As of Sunday evening, the US has reported over 3,700 cases of coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19. The disease has also killed 66 people in the US. There are 110 cases in India so far, including the two persons who died in Delhi and Karnataka. Ten patients have been discharged.
Based out of Boston, the USA India Chamber of Commerce for over a decade now has been organising an annual BioPharma and Healthcare Summit attended by top pharma sector leaders and researchers and government officials from both the countries. The 14th edition of the summit scheduled in May has now been pushed to September, due to uncertainties over the coronavirus, a media release said.
“This unprecedented situation thrust upon India and the rest of the world has forced India to take a serious look at the lack of urgency and investments in BioPharma Research & Development in India,” Rishi told PTI.
This also forces India to implement long pending decisions which can help the pharma manufacturing of bulk drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), he said, adding that India has a heavy dependence on China for imports of bulk drugs and APIs.
In 2018-19, Indian pharmaceutical companies imported bulk drugs and intermediates worth USD 2.4 billion from China, which accounts for about 68 per cent of total imports of the raw materials. Due to the COVID-19, supplies from Chinese manufacturers have been disrupted.
“For strategic reasons as well as medicine security, India cannot be dependent on a single country for major supply of APIs,” he asserted.
Noting that around 1990, the Indian pharma industry was quite self-reliant in APIs, he said the Indian government had set setup committee of secretaries, headed by Secretary, Health Research, Dr. VM Katoch, in 2013 which submitted report in February 2015 to suggest ways to reduce the dependence on bulk drug imports from China.
“India has failed in executing these great ideas. The committee outlined a package of the interventions and concessions required to reduce dependency on China. India requires end-to-end manufacturing of APIs within the country. It is ironical that the year 2015 was declared as the “Year of the API” by the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) and reiterated the urgent need to bring about self-sufficiency in the field,” Rishi said.
“We hope this crisis will force the Indian government to implement this long pending report. If implemented today, it will take a few years before we see any significant results. Manufacturing plants can be commissioned overnight,” he added.
Observing that India and the US are strategic security partners, he said COVID-19 is a security and national threat to both countries. India and the US should expand their strategic partnership to fight COVID-19 together.
Human and financial resources can be pooled to help discover, develop, and manufacture vaccines and therapeutics in order to combat the novel Coronavirus. The partnership can also produce essential medicines, he recommended.
Rishi said that India becoming a key member of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in 2017 shows the vision and strategic thinking of Indian leaders. The CEPI will be playing a critical role in developing vaccine for COVID-19 and India will be a key part of it, he added.