India's suffering generics industry hires DC consultant to burnish its image

Indian generics makers have turned to a Washington, DC, consulting firm run by Ron Somers to counter its tarnished image as bad press from plant bans has put its standards into question. Somers, known for his work on India's civilian nuclear industry, has put together a PR campaign that attacks Big Pharma for agitating against the Indian industry. 

He has come out swinging, accusing PhRMA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other groups in a press release of "tar-brushing" the Indian generic industry "in order to maintain market share and destroy competition." PhRMA could not be reached for comment.

According to BusinessWorld, Somers' India First Group has been hired to run the campaign by Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, which counts among its members Ranbaxy Laboratories, Sun Pharmaceutical, Lupin, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories and Zydus Cadila. Somers said they will invite U.S. insurers, pension funds, large employers and healthcare professionals to its newly formed Coalition for Affordable Care, to support market-based pricing and the protection of intellectual property in line with global norms. The U.S. Chamber, PhRMA and Big Pharma players have complained loudly about India's penchant for overstepping their patents to allow generics of some of their top-selling drugs into India at cheap prices.

India makes about 40% of the generic and over-the-counter drugs sold in the U.S. and concerns have been building for several years as the FDA has banned plants operated by Ranbaxy, Sun, Wockhardt and others for faking analytics and for sanitation and manufacturing lapses. During a trip to India in February, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that many drugmakers there were top-notch, but that a failure to focus on quality was costing India its reputation in the eyes of the world. The bans have taken a significant toll on India's drug industry. Growth in drug exports fell to 2.6% in the year ending March 31, about $15 billion, after reaching a growth rate of 23% two years ago.

Ashutosh Gupta, chairman of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil) in India said in May that the industry was being picked on by Big Pharma, telling Reuters that it would launch a PR campaign "to fight these issues head on." Somers campaign is targeting American Baby Boomers with the idea that branded drug companies are making healthcare unaffordable for them. "Short-sighted tactics and negative campaigns may have worked to preserve market share for these special interests previously, but history is not on their side," Somers' statement said.

- read the announcement
- here's the BusinessWorld story