India a prime example of growing domestic pharma industry: UNICEF official

New Delhi: India is a prime example of successfully growing a domestic pharmaceutical industry capable of meeting global supply needs, a top UNICEF official said.

India can share its expertise and learnings from the model it used to foster the pharmaceutical industry with countries and regions trying to build capacities including how to incentivise the private sector, ensure regulatory and quality assurance systems in place and develop a globally competitive industry, Tara L Prasad, Senior Manager, Centre for Health Emergency Strategy and Partnerships at UNICEF, said.

She is here to attend the third G20 Health Working Group meeting that is being held from June 4 to 6.

“Further, India can share lessons on how to create an enabling environment, including investments in human and physical capital, as well as its learnings in moving beyond generic industry to expanding research and development innovator industry,” Prasad said.

The G20 more broadly can call upon its industry to ensure manufacturers include licensing and technology transfer for essential and emergency health supplies to different regions to ensure equitable access.

On the key lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic that can guide how G20 countries and the global health community collectively strengthen coordination for access to medical countermeasures, Prasad said Covid was unprecedented in its global scale, the novelty of the virus and the wide socio-economic repercussions and ripple effects it created.

Looking at Covid, some key lessons are that equity needs to be considered from the start and across the value chain. And, secondly, low-and middle-income country stakeholders need to be involved from the onset to ensure access partnerships take into account the context and needs of countries they aim to support, she said.

“Thirdly, vaccines alone are not enough. We need a toolkit with many interventions including tests, treatments, personal protective equipment and ancillary supplies,” she said.

“Related to that, efforts need to be multi-sectoral considering the cascading effect of a health emergency water, sanitation, hygiene and infection prevention control measures are equally important,” Prasad stated.

Manufacturing of medical countermeasures needs to be geographically diversified to ensure resilience against global shocks, reduced lead times during an outbreak, and increase overall regional and global health security.

“We need more investments in research and development for priority pathogens including those with limited market size and limited R and D investments and to create more incentives for industry to engage and increase risk-sharing between public and private sectors,” Prasad said.

Strengthening health systems needs to be an integral part of preparedness, including strengthening primary health care systems at the community level, she said, adding this will ensure systems are better prepared to deliver novel medical countermeasures (MCMs) when they become available.

“Community engagement is essential to reduce hesitancy and increase trust and uptake in MCMs,” she stated.

On critical components of the global MCM coordination, she said, “We have the opportunity to ensure the world emerges from the Covid pandemic stronger than before.”

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator — ACT-A — partnership is “an example of what is possible if we work together. Building on the collaboration and lessons learnt from ACT-A we are now in a position to reinvigorate efforts to ensure more equitable global health outcomes,” she said.

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“We cannot let ‘peacetime’ between pandemics and largescale health emergencies result in complacency. For the next pandemic, the world will need a diversified vaccine and product portfolio, expanded production spread across the world, and stronger and more resilient health systems,” she said.

Equity needs to be at the heart of access to medical countermeasures, and the emphasis of global collaboration needs to prioritise reaching the vulnerable, the hardest to reach and the most underserved, including women and children, she said.

Also Read | G20: India proposes medical countermeasure coordination platform for public good

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