Today’s edition of the Indian Express has an edit piece that I have authored on why the government should stop repeatedly tinkering with India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) policy for pharmaceuticals.
In this piece I have argued that there is no connection between the availability of essential medicines and the FDI policy and that this repeated hullabaloo around foreign investment is taking away the focus from those factors that do, in fact, have an impact on essential medicines. Not to mention the blatant double standards that it displays towards foreign-owned companies. You can read the column here.
In a general way, it never fails to surprise me how easy it is in the corridors of government to lose sight of real issues and focus instead on bogeymen. I wish for instance that at least as much umbrage directed at the foreigners was reserved for increasingly drug-resistant bugs that are a more significant and immediate threat to the health of scores of Indians. I wish that some of the energy that is spent on devising ways and means to clip the wings of foreign companies, were invested instead in designing meaningful public-private partnerships to discover new drugs such as antibiotics and then making sure they are executed.
But no, it’s much easier to say ‘Boo’ to the bogeyman, isn’t it?
In the meantime, some of those Indian businessmen who sold out are doing very interesting things in healthcare itself though it may not be in drug manufacturing. One example is Anand Burman who sold Dabur Pharma, a maker of generic cancer drugs, to Germany’s Fresenius Kabi in 2008. He helped raise a private equity fund for healthcare investments, also investing his own funds in it, in 2010. The Asian Healthcare Fund’s portfolio includes a chain of neighbourhood clinics that provide primary care in cities.
His family has also partnered with foreign companies to foray into training of healthcare professionals, and to provide home-based medical care. These are all felt needs in Indian healthcare.
Am I the only one who thinks that the Burmans are unlikely to have waded this far into healthcare if they were busy managing a generic drugs business simply because the government thought they should?