Budget 2021 | Healthcare experts demand increase in allocation, investment in R&D

'India must set itself a target of becoming at least a 10% contributor of new drug molecules globally over the next 20 years'
Last Updated 28 January 2021, 01:48 IST

By Mr Nikhil K Masurkar,

The year gone by has once again served to remind us of the need to improve India’s healthcare infrastructure and accessibility. It has also underscored the need to make biomedical research a central pillar of our healthcare and pharma sectors. While the main thrust of the upcoming Budget needs to be on economic revival and job creation, healthcare and pharma sectors must also get their due.

Increasing healthcare allocation to at least 2.5 per cent of the GDP has been a longstanding commitment of the Indian government, we expect this Budget to make a significant move in this direction. The government must find ways to ensure that its flagship Ayushman Bharat scheme does not take a backseat due to fund crunch. In a recessionary phase when disposable incomes have fallen for millions of people, the need for channelizing public healthcare support is more intense.

A strong element of increasing healthcare allocation must also be increasing funds available for health and medical research. Giving the pharma sector adequate policy support in this quest to become self-reliant is another expectation. Not just drug manufacturing chain but indigenous drug discovery efforts also need a major self-reliance boost.

In this line, we would like to hear concrete announcements on the Department of Pharmaceuticals’ plans to create a separate department for R&D and institute a dedicated R&D head. India must set itself a target of becoming at least a 10 per cent contributor of new drug molecules globally over the next 20 years. Creation of a dedicated public-private-academia initiative to boost new drug discovery must be considered.

At the same time, the Production-Linked Incentive scheme that has been a cornerstone of government’s efforts to boost local bulk drug production must be supplemented with additional support announcements such as incentives for companies investing in R&D and earning patents. In terms of promoting indigenous production of APIs and KSMs, the government must also undertake measures to support the private sector that is likely to face the challenge of escalating costs.

It is important that the Government finds a way to subsidize production for the next few years either through public laboratories or through public-private partnerships. Overall, there is a need to create an ecosystem that supports new innovations rather than just generic drug production. Also, GST for medicines should be 5 per cent instead of 12 per cent.

(The author is Executive Director at ENTOD Pharmaceutical)

By Mr Chetan Kohli,

Given that priority recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine are likely to be covered by August, it is important that India remains firmly on the path of testing for active Covid-19 infections and promotes RT-PCR tests, the gold standard accepted globally.

The Budget this year must increase public spending in healthcare and focus on making these tests more affordable and accessible to people. Besides, promoting primary and preventive healthcare will be crucial — we would like the government to focus on eliminating genetic disorders in newborns and adopt measures that will ensure both maternal health and healthy babies.

(The author is the COO at Genestrings Diagnostic Labs)

By Dr Gauri Agarwal,

We would expect a sizable allocation for the digitisation of health services as India prepares to roll out the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). Besides, medical and biotech R&D will need more focus as the country aims to achieve self-reliance in these sectors.

There is also an urgent need to invest in building healthcare infrastructure in terms of adding more beds in the hospitals to meet the WHO standards to ensure quality, trained manpower in healthcare facilities, both in cities and in rural and remote areas. Every hospital as well as primary healthcare centres in the interiors must be equipped with professionals and equipment needed for critical care.

(The author is the Fertility Expert & Founder of Seeds Of Innocence)

(Published 27 January 2021, 14:45 IST)

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