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PHARMA INDUSTRY – Putting it in Perspective
My recently concluded 30-part series on Pharma business in Pakistan captured the spectrum of functions, processes and activities associated with Pharma business. This post will cover the relevance and importance of Pharma industry. It is not just about Pakistan; it is about every country. World Pharma market has crossed one trillion US$ annually. About 44% is North America alone; rest is rest of the world. Pakistan is around 2.8 billion US$ for comparison.
- Healthcare Aspect – Going by the popular perception, Pharma is a key part of Healthcare. There are two parts of Healthcare; prevention of disease, and treatment of disease. Medical science has made great strides in both areas.
- Prevention of Disease – the fact that the world can boast about ‘eliminating’ several serious, disabling, fatal diseases of epidemic proportions has been made possible through the introduction of vaccines. Smallpox is now virtually non-existent in the world. There was a scare though, few years back, of its re-emergence in some parts. Hopefully, it has been taken care of. In its high time, smallpox killed many, disabled many and disfigured all those who contracted it. Polio has also been eradicated from most of the world. Pakistan and some other countries, where literacy is poor and wisdom is poorer, are still fighting to eradicate it. Pakistan at one time declared itself polio-free. It did not last long because the disease re-emerged quickly. The Immunization program run by the successive governments has been a worthwhile effort and has yielded good results. Those who could afford would take their children to private clinics; others went to government facilities. The Immunization program has been expanding to include more vaccinations. BCG, DPT, Polio, Measles, MMR, Hep B, Pneumonia and so on. Typhoid, Meningitis were also added. In recent times, Pneumonia vaccine has truly helped infants, children and elderly people and has reduced morbidity and mortality. Some of the vaccines like Hep B, Pneumonia, Meningitis, are also for adults. Yellow fever vaccine is needed if one is traveling to Africa and South/Latin America. The vaccines were initially developed by independent scientists, later taken up Pharma industry for bulk production and worldwide delivery. The point is that without the Pharma Industry’s technical, financial, commercial, global resources, the vaccines would never have been produced, distributed and used the way it happened. Currently, the vaccine research, development, scaling and global availability is entirely taken up by Pharma Industry. The summary is that disease prevention would never have been accomplished without active participation of Pharma Industry.
Another aspect of preventive Healthcare is ‘maintaining the wellbeing’. This is through dietary adjustments and nutritional supplements. Dietary adjustment is largely done by dietitians, but the supplements are formulated, refined, produced and marketed by Pharma industry. Allopathic, Herbal, Ayurvedic, Eastern and Homeopathic, are all branches of ‘medicine’ business. The approaches vary but the targeted outcome is the same. Wellbeing business is another aspect of ‘preventive medicines.’
- Treatment of Disease – is the larger arm of Pharma business. It is not a preference chosen by the industry; it is a choice made by the public at large. People do not work towards preventing diseases; they prefer to get sick and get treatment. Keeping healthy requires a strict discipline in diet, lifestyle, and life balance. Adopting these is considered akin to abandoning many pleasures of life. All unhealthy foods are extremely delicious; an undisciplined life seems so relaxed and entertaining. Who wants to refuse the pleasures that life offers? Not many.
The incidence of diseases has increased manifold; the types of diseases has increased and so has the diagnosis; the complications have added up; and new diseases are coming to light. There are environmental and other reasons for this. Collectively the demand for drug treatment of any kind has multiplied. Along with this, the disease awareness has increased through media and education; treatment facilities have increased; more doctors are available; diagnostic tools have been revolutionized, and surgical interventional techniques have progressed beyond imagination. The progress continues. Whatever else happens for treatment, drugs shall be a part. Population is developing countries is still increasing which is adding more prospective patients. For these and some other reasons, the Pharma business keeps growing.
Growth of Pharma business also happens due to increased usage of same drugs, introduction of new drugs, new treatment modalities, expansion of health facilities, increase per capita spending, and greater budget allocation by government. Pakistan Pharma market grows at double digit pace every year mostly.
From the Healthcare aspect, Pharma business is the mainstay of healthcare management.
Having said that, there are other reasons also which make Pharma Industry important.