The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech might be the first to come out with a vaccine for the Zika virus if its efficacy can be proved. If it does succeed, this won’t be the first time India has come to the rescue of the world. Indeed, the country’s generic medicines are a lifeline for millions not only in low and middle-income countries but also in the developed world.
India’s generic industry hit global headlines in 2001 when Cipla offered a three-drug cocktail for AIDS at less than a dollar a day, a fraction of the price charged by multinationals. Today, apart from several HIV/AIDS drugs, the industry is producing affordable, high quality medicines for several diseases including hepatitis B and C, cancers, drug-resistant TB and asthma. This has been credited to India’s patent law, often held up as a model one in preventing the abuse of patent monopolies, and in balancing public interest and the growth of the pharmaceutical industry.
Last month, generic manufacturer Natco announced that it would be supplying daclatasvir, a Hepatitis C drug, to 112 developing countries. In 2013, a medicine to treat hepatitis C, sofosbuvir, hit international headlines for its price $1,000 per pill. Gram for gram, it cost 67 times the price of gold. The sofosbuivir and daclatasvir combination used for the disease costs almost $150,000 per patient for the 12-week regimen in the US. But inIndia, it is priced at just $700 or a little over Rs 46,500 per patient for the same regimen. And prices are expected to fall further.