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Africa could learn from India’s burgeoning pharma sector

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 02 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4235
  1. Sakthivel Selvaraj, senior health economist, Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi, India
  1. shakti{at}

Prohibitive drug costs are leading some African countries to try to enter the generic market. They would do well to look at India’s model, says Sakthivel Selvaraj

India is the global pharmacy, producing and supplying essential drugs to more than 200 countries. Its drug market is valued at $15.64bn (Rs930bn; £10bn; €12bn), of which more than 40% comes from exports.1 2 India has more than 10 000 producers and more than 262 factories approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.3

As African countries grapple with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, coupled with malaria and tuberculosis, they increasingly buy cheap generic drugs from India. In 2012 Africa accounted for almost a quarter of India’s drug exports. In the late 1990s a campaign to improve access to antiretroviral drugs in Africa started a process that has brought the price of these drugs down from more than $10 000 a patient a year—using drugs sold by multinational drug companies—to less than $150—using drugs sold by Indian generic manufacturers.4 But African …

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