The government is working on a strategy to reduce the import dependence of Indian pharmaceutical industry for its raw material needs, as a bulk of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) is sourced abroad, especially from China.
While the move is commercial, industry considers the move as originating from the heightened tensions in Indo-China relations.
Pharma companies are more worried about their margins than the burden of imports on the economy and hence the intervention.
A BusinessLine report quoting Pharmexcil director Uday Bhaskar said the commerce ministry has directed government agencies, including Pharmexcil and the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) to work on a detailed project to make the country self-sufficient in bulk drugs.
The commerce ministry is reported to have convened a meeting of research laboratories and other stakeholders to work on a roadmap to realise this strategic objective.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will discuss the issue with experts in the field on 12 August.
According to the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil), Indian drug manufactures import raw materials worth an average $6 billion every year from China, while it exports very little to that country.
India is dependent on China even for raw materials for some of the life-saving drugs.
''In some case, including in the life-saving drugs category, the dependence on Chinese imports is as much as 90 per cent. We have identified about 50-60 drugs for import substitution,'' the BusinessLine report quoted the Pharmexcil chief as saying.
Read together the government's drive to trim API imports and the decision to keep in abeyance a $1.3-billion deal by Chinese company Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceuticals to take over Hyderabad-based Gland Pharma could be seen as an anti-China move by India amidst a prolonged border stand-off.
The drug industry, however, has not faced any disruption in supplies in the wake of border tensions with China.