Pharma & Healthcare Analytics Is Going To Be The Next Big Thing In India


The Indian pharmaceutical industry has emerged as a significant contributor to the global pharmaceutical industry. As per the report by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI), “India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally. Indian pharmaceutical sector industry supplies over 50 per cent of global demand for various vaccines, 40 per cent of generic demand in the US and 25 per cent of all the medicine in the UK. Presently over 80 per cent of the antiretroviral drugs used globally to combat AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is supplied by Indian pharmaceutical firms.”

In 2017, the Indian pharmaceutical industry was valued at $33 billion. The industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.4 per cent over 2015–20 to reach $55 billion. India’s pharmaceutical exports stood at $17.27 billion in 2017-18. In 2018-19 these exports are expected to cross $19 billion.

Structure of the Pharmaceutical Industry

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The Indian pharmaceutical companies majorly consist of two segments namely API’s (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) and formulations. API’s or bulk drugs are raw chemical ingredients which are used to manufacture formulations. Formulations are the end products made to treat different kinds of ailments and these are in the form of tablets, injections, syrups etc. Both bulk drugs and formulations are usually available in both branded and generic forms. Branded products are the ones which are usually invented and patented by that respective company. Generic products are the one exactly like branded pharma products in formulation usage and action. These generic drugs are produced once the patent of the inventor company expires. Generic drugs are much cheaper than branded drugs. 70% of revenue in the Indian pharma industry is from generic drugs.

Trends in Pharma and Healthcare Sector

Phani Mitra, VP (Analytics and Strategy) of Dr Reddy’s Lab stated “There are four areas that are changing the pharma industry. The US markets and the European markets are going for tremendous customer consolidation. Secondly, the approval rate of drugs in the US is pretty quick now. Previously, it used to take a year or 18 months to get a product approved but now it happens in less than 6 months. So, drug approvals becoming faster and it puts the pressure back on the innovation cycle. What we could have spent 3 or 5 years innovating a product, now it has to be done in a year and a half. The third big shift is on the quality. The expectation of life-saving medicines is shifting. Quality was generally done in two buckets. People manufacture a product and then check for quality which is typically called the Quality control (QC) check. Now, the industry moving towards, “quality in the process”. What it means that I cannot have a bad product and then the QC rejects it and then I manufacture again. The time does not allow it. The fourth biggest shift is the increased demand for healthcare and not enough resources for it.”

Charlie Farah, Director – Healthcare and Public Sector APAC, Qlik said “With the current doctor-patient ratio reportedly languishing at more than 1:2,000 at present, the country [India] needs almost 5 lakh additional doctors on an immediate basis to satisfy the WHO guideline. The patient-to-medical bed ratio is probably even more abysmal; there are only 1.3 beds available for every 1,000 people, significantly below the WHO-defined benchmark of 3.5 beds per 1,000 individuals. The Indian healthcare infrastructure, to say the least, is heavily overburdened.” Qlik is a US-based software company that develops software for business intelligence and data visualisation. Its flagship products are QlikView and Qlik Sense.

He further added “The situation becomes even grimmer when we factor in the current rate of population growth, as well as the gradual rise in serious chronic ailments like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular illnesses. According to a 2015 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the country will need 3.5 million beds, 3 million doctors, and 6 million nurses by 2035. This means a potential investment of nearly $245 billion in the traditional healthcare delivery infrastructure over the next two decades. Given the scope of investment as well as the resource crunch that India currently faces, a more technologically-oriented approach is clearly required if the country is to overcome challenges in healthcare delivery and make high-quality medical services more accessible and available to all. This is where healthcare-centric data analytics steps into the picture.”

What it means for Analytics in Pharma and Heathcare?

Gaurav Tripathi, Co-founder, Innoplexus commented “Making data and insights available instantly takes the pain out of data collection, curation and analysis, which means companies can make more informed decisions faster. [The industry] is currently entering a wave of innovation thanks to disruptive, computer-based technologies. Paradoxically, the evolution of machine learning, which raises the threshold of intelligent analysis beyond that of the human brain, can teach us more about what it means to be human”. Innoplexus helps companies leverage analytics across various drug development process.

Bigger companies like Dr. Reddy’s are slowly using analytics to be ahead of the competition. Mukesh Rathi and CIO at Dr Reddy’s Laboratories said “We are now working on creating the ‘Data Lakes’ for various parts of the organisation – R&D, Manufacturing and Quality, Sales and Marketing to derive insights by applying data science to this Big Data. We have witnessed some early success in gaining insights from both known and unknown hypothesis. Data is at times throws insights which were not intuitively known. For instance, the constrained resource in the shop floor has shifted, correlation of a number of mistakes in the lab with the shift of operation, more than x visits per month are not leading to additional brand recall, etc.”

Vasant Narasimhan, Global Head of Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer of Novartis said “We want to be leaders in bringing data analytics into our development efforts, clinical trials…whether it is sensors, deep learning or machine learning, we are already doing that and increasingly rolling out these efforts. This is a top priority as we believe that it will enable us to drive down cost of drug development.”

There are lot of startups that have been funded in the recent past to leverage analytics in the pharma and healthcare space. Some of the notable companies are: is a Mumbai based health startup founded in 2016 that uses AI and Deep Learning to make diagnostic imaging like X-rays and MRIs affordable and accessible. Dr. Pooja Rao, the founder said “In some parts of the world, radiology reads are accessible, but expensive. In others (like many parts of India), access to even the most basic clinical expertise is limited, and patients have to travel long distances to seek a diagnosis.” makes the diagnostic reads of X-rays and MRIs automated and affordable. The pricing for automated AI reads from starts at Rs 90 only. She further adds “We’re building a system that captures the combined expertise of hundreds of doctors, to create better, faster, and wider-reaching diagnostics. We have trained algorithms to perform tasks that were previously the domain of highly trained doctors. The algorithms help free up physician time, prioritise cases that need special attention, and enable more accurate diagnosis, leading to better outcomes for patients, at lower costs.” In 2018, was recognised by NASSCOM as one of the 10 game changer awards for AI based solutions.

SigTuple is an example of another such innovative startup based out of Bangalore. Rohit Kumar Pandey, Tathagato Rai Dastidar and Apurv Anand want to solve the problem caused by the chronic shortage of trained medical practitioners. They developed a platform called “Manthana” to provide healthcare solutions by detecting different diseases using machine learning software. It promises to automatically analyse medical images and data to aid diagnosis. SigTuple was recognised by NVIDIA as one of the top 5 AI startups for social impact in the year 2017.

The new wave of innovation in analytics is definitely in the Pharma and Healthcare space as is evident from the amount of Venture Capital (VC) funding in the recent past. Notable among them are CureFit, a health and fitness platform which received ₹823.8 crore (around $120 million) in Series C funding led by IDG Ventures, Accel Partners, and Kalaari Capital. HealthSignz, a provider of medical intelligence, raised $5 million in a Pre-series A funding round led by New Zealand-based Nirvana Health Group founder Dr Kantilal Patel., a Hindi language online source for health-related content, raised $5 million in Series A funding round from Nexus Venture Partners, Omidyar Network, and Shunwei Capital, HealthPlix, a developer of an Artificial Intelligence-driven electronic medical records app for patients, raised ₹20.7 crore (around $3 million) in Series A funding from IDG Ventures India and Kalaari Capital.

The recent macro trends in this space is also proving to be conducive for the innovators as more and more startups are trying to solve problems related to healthcare delivery and drug development.

Surajit Ghosh Dastidar
Dr Dastidar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Analytics at IMT Hyderabad, with more than 15 years of experience in teaching and research. He has done his Masters in Business Management from Calcutta University and PhD in Network Flow models.

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