Indian drug-makers import more than 80% of their total Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (APIs) or bulk drug requirements from China. (Representational image: Reuters/File)
In 2022-23, the import has risen less than 2% against the massive growth of almost 20% in the previous fiscal when India imported the highest from China in the last eight years
There has been a significant fall in the imports of Chinese raw materials for manufacturing drugs recently, due to fading Covid-19 pandemic, but India still recorded an overall spike in the last eight years, the government data has revealed.
In 2022-23, the import has grown less than 2% against the massive growth of almost 20% in the previous fiscal when India imported the highest from China in the last eight years.
Despite being the top supplier of medicines across the globe, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is highly dependent on China for raw materials even to produce a basic medicine like Crocin.
Indian drug-makers import more than 80% of their total Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (APIs) or bulk drug requirements from China.
In fact, in 2018-19 fiscal, the central government told Lok Sabha that the pharmaceutical industry imported bulk drugs and intermediates worth $2.4 billion from China.
What Govt Data Shows
According to the government data, the imports of bulk drugs and intermediates stood at $2110.39 million in 2015-16, which went up to $2323.95 million in 2019-20.
In 2021, the imports spiralled due to the outbreak of Covid-19. The imports stood at $2615.65 million, registering a jump of 12.55% in the first Covid year followed by another jump of almost 20% touching $3125.37 million.
In 2022-23, as Covid started waning, the imports fell to $3180.12 million.
However, overall, in the last eight years, the imports have increased despite the government putting several measures in place.
Results of PLI Scheme will Take Time to Show
During the Covid outbreak, when China was massively impacted, India faced a threat in the supply of raw materials leading to a shortage of medicines commonly used as well chronic disease medicines. While the predictions did not turn true, the Indian government was pushed to take significant steps to reduce dependence on Chinese imports.
In March 2020, the government approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to boost the domestic production of raw materials for making medicines in India.
“The results of the PLI scheme will take time to show up. It will not help immediately in bringing the imports down,” said an industry veteran when asked about the production of APIs under the scheme.
“So far, the government hasn’t officially released any figures on the units of APIs produced under the scheme. We must expect some results in the next two to three years,” he added.