In Unregulated African Markets, Chinese Drugs Move In On India

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Written by Dana Sanchez

China has captured “the lion’s share” of India’s bulk drugs industry, and now it’s hurting India’s exports markets — especially in African countries where China is dumping cheap product, Indian stakeholders say.

Indian pharmaceutical companies have something else to worry about. China is setting up plants in Africa. Once those are established, China will no longer face anti-dumping duty,  according to a report in TimesOfIndia.

It’s China’s practice to initially dump cheap products at uncompetitive prices, TimesOfIndia reported. Once the competition is eliminated, China raises the price of its products.

Together, China and India manufacture more than 80 percent of the main active ingredients in the world’s drugs, including in the U.S. and Europe, according to the Institute of Medicine.

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration worked for years to increase its scrutiny of Indian drug makers. Now China is a focus, according to Bloomberg.

China has a growing drug industry, and one that increasingly wants to make not just raw ingredients but finished drugs for export. The U.S. has just two FDA drug inspectors in China who oversee about 700 drug-making facilities.

Gujarat state accounts for 22 percent of India’s pharmaceutical market with about 800 formulation and generic drug-making companies. Most are in the formulation business. Larger companies such as Zydus Cadila and Sun Pharma cater to regulated markets in the U.S. and Europe. Smaller companies — about 80 percent of the total — do business mainly in unregulated markets such as Africa and Latin America, TimesOfIndia reported.

China lacks adequate technical know-how for formulations in regulated markets but it helps build infrastructure in undeveloped African countries, securing, in return, orders for large volumes of drugs. The drugs are made to the standards of the African countries, but may appear to be low quality to other countries, according to the report.

“China is stepping up its pressure in non-regulated markets where norms are not very stringent,” said Chirag Doshi, former chairman of the Gujarat State Board, Indian Drug Manufacturers Association. “It is a wake-up call for us.”

Africa accounted for 20 percent of Gujarat pharmaceutical exports to Africa in 2014-2015.

Gujarat pharmaceutical companies also face competition from Chinese firms in Latin America, Vietnam and Malaysia, TimesofIndia reported.

China is determined to become a world leader in the pharmaceutical sector, spending $1.17 billion promoting life and medical sciences in 2012—nearly 10 times its 2004 level of investment — according to the CouncilOnForeignRelations. By comparison, U.S. funding for medical research is declining.

Despite its impressive growth, China has few domestically developed new drugs or vaccines that are internationally known or marketable. China’s pharmaceutical industry remains positioned at the lower-end of the global value chain, the March 31 report concluded.