Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Support Our Journalism
HomeEconomyTrade body says Indian pharma exports to hit $27 billion this fiscal,...

Trade body says Indian pharma exports to hit $27 billion this fiscal, despite cough syrup deaths

India is the world's third largest maker of drugs by volume, and US sales, which account for 30% of total pharma exports, have risen by 6.2% last year.

Text Size:

New Delhi: India’s pharmaceutical exports this fiscal year are set to grow nearly twice as fast as last year to hit sales of $27 billion, driven by strong U.S. buying, a government-backed trade body told Reuters, despite deaths linked to Indian-made cough syrups.

The robust forecast comes against the backdrop of earlier concerns from the government that last year’s deaths of dozens of children in Gambia, which the World Health Organization (WHO) linked to drugs made in India, had “adversely impacted the image of India’s pharmaceutical products across the globe”.

Two other cough syrups made in India killed 19 children in Uzbekistan around December, according to the Uzbekistan government.

India is the world’s third largest maker of drugs by volume after the United States and China, and senior pharma trade official Udaya Bhaskar said the country was too big a player for buyers to move away because of “these aberrations” in Gambia and Uzbekistan.

“As far as the Gambia and Uzbekistan incidents are concerned, if you see in terms of the image of the country, there is a dent,” Bhaskar, director general of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), told Reuters on Tuesday.

“But if you see our (April-June) exports, they have grown. We are doing very well in the U.S. market, we are growing at more than 10% there. In the past four-five months, the growth in exports shows that people have not taken very, very seriously (any concerns about) the quality of Indian pharmaceuticals.”

India’s pharma exports rose 3.25% in the year to March 31 to $25.4 billion and Bhaskar said it was set to grow by about 6.3% to $27 billion this fiscal year.

Sales to the United States, India’s biggest market with 30% of its overall pharma exports, rose 6.2% to $7.5 billion last fiscal year, government data show.

India’s overall pharma exports in the April-June quarter rose 5% to $6.58 billion.

India is seeing good overall demand for drugs for central nervous system conditions, cardiovascular and oncology, Bhaskar said.


Pharmexcil delegations have visited countries including Nigeria, Egypt and Russia in recent months to allay any concerns about Indian drugs, he said.

“Wherever we are going, people are asking and we are clarifying,” Bhaskar said. “We are telling them our stand. We are trying our level best.”

India has denied links to the deaths in Gambia but found another company guilty of sending adulterated products to Uzbekistan and cancelled its licence. The company, Marion Biotech, has denied wrongdoing.

Gambia has made it mandatory for all Indian drugs to be tested before being exported to the African country since July 1. India has since June 1 made it compulsory for all cough syrups to be tested before export.

But India’s cough syrup exports, including those made by drugmakers that follow the traditional Indian method of Ayurveda, are only about $15 million a year and exports have largely remained intact, Bhaskar said.

Apart from Gambia, no other country has asked for additional tests for Indian drugs since the deaths, he said.

“Whatever exports we are doing to countries like the U.S., our largest importer, they are not asking. There are so many countries we are exporting to, the UK, South Africa, Brazil or any other market. They are not asking.”

Manufacturing a drug in Europe or the United States costs more than 30% than in India, giving India a big advantage, he said.

“India is known for producing quality drugs at an affordable price,” he said. “That is the major advantage for India and we are enjoying that for the last 15-20 years.”


India’s exports to Russia, however, have suffered because of the Ukraine war. Sales to the country fell 4.2% last fiscal year to $573 million, according to government data, taking Russia to the seventh position from fourth among India’s biggest pharma importers. Russia’s share in India’s pharma exports is generally around 2.5% but has now dipped to 2.2%.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year and until June 5 this year, India’s pharma exports to Russia fell 4.6% to about $691 million from the corresponding period a year earlier, a government source told Reuters.

Bhaskar said the fall could be due to a dollar shortage for Russia, its attempts to prop up the domestic market and some reluctance among big Indian companies to do too much business with it while also trading with the United States, even though there are no Western sanctions on pharma products.

(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Additional reporting by Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Alison Williams and Jacqueline Wong)

Disclaimer: This report is auto generated from the Reuters news service. ThePrint holds no responsibilty for its content.

Also read: Modi govt likely to bring in stricter pan-Indian system to recall substandard drugs from market


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular