India's Himachal Pradesh state eyes foreign investment in bulk drugs

SINGAPORE--India's state of Himachal Pradesh, known as Asia's pharmaceutical hub, is taking steps to make its bulk-drug industry more attractive to foreign and other investors, but finds attempting to do so a hard slog. The action, and that of other states, is considered key to reducing India's reliance on imports of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), mainly from China.

To that end, Himachal is responding, in part, to the national government pressure on the states to ease constraints on the API and medical device segments of the industry. At a recent meeting, state authorities approved plans by Lupin Pharmaceuticals ($LUPIN) and Torrent Pharmaceuticals ($TORNTPHARM) to set up bulk drug units in the state in a "secluded zone" where companies are overseen by the Investor Promotion Cell and the State Pollution Control Board. The move removes the pharma industry, considered one of the state's 17 most polluting industries, from its "negative list" that discouraged investments.

The northern India state action is one that the head of the national government's Department of Pharmaceuticals, Secretary V.K. Subburaj, has said the nation needed to provide a "conducive atmosphere" for the bulk drug and medical devices segment of India's healthcare industry. He also set a goal of being independent of imports within the next 10 years.

The Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Ministry told Parliament recently that India was reliant on China for the bulk drugs needed to make 12 drugs on the nation's list of essential medicines. One of its ministers said in a mid-December speech that China was dumping its bulk drugs in India and called for policy changes to address the problem.

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