Tremendous scope for India-US cooperation in health technology and pharma, says expert

As the US government steps up assistance to India in its battle against a deadly wave of the COVID-19, an Indian public healthcare expert has pointed out the tremendous scope for India-US cooperation in the sectors of health technology and pharmaceuticals.

“After we emerge out of the crisis, two areas where there is tremendous scope for cooperation between India and the US are health technology and pharmaceuticals,” Indian civil servant Dr Mrinalini Darswal, currently pursuing doctoral studies in public health with focus on COVID-19 at Harvard University, told .

A 2002-batch Odisha-cadre IAS officer, Darswal said India has proved its competence in the health sector, especially in speed of innovation, manufacture, and cost-effectiveness.

It is beneficial to the US to utilise India’s technical competence and installed capacity in drug manufacturing to source health equipment, drugs, personal protective equipment, and vaccines at competitive rates even now, she said.

“This shall also lower US dependence on China, which has proved a treacherous partner, besides being non-repentant of its hiding of the origin of COVID-19 and consequently throwing the planet in the current predicament,” Darswal said.

Observing that globalisation and interconnectedness hastened the spread of the coronavirus in a matter of weeks in November 2019, Darswal said the same forces of interdependence and mutuality would help the world tide over the crisis.

“The USA and India — the largest democracies in the world — are capable of setting the path to the normal for the entire planet by working in tandem and choosing to collaborate to beat the common enemy sans boundaries,” Darswal said.

According to her, the American motto of ‘value based care’ which aims at decreasing unnecessary care costs, and incentivising reduction in readmissions at healthcare institutions due to maintenance of healthier patient-parameters would come in handy to set a new vision for health in India.

In the same frame, the US would be able to contain her escalating healthcare costs of therapeutics and diagnostics by sourcing these goods from India at very competitive rates.

“We know labour in India is very competitive compared to China, and the manufacturing standards in bio-pharma in India are state-of-the-art,” she explained.

India, she said, finds herself in a critical situation today. “It is a repeat of the (coronavirus) health disaster of unprecedented quantum that befell the USA, the UK, France, Spain, and many other nations in 2020, who are now slowly emerging, having suffered multiple deadly waves, and still not fully out of water,” she noted.

“The spread of the UK variant proves no country is free of the pandemic, unless all of the nations of the world are. Therefore, all the countries have to come together to help a populous country like India, to beat the pandemic. This will be sine qua non for reaching a pandemic-free world in near future,” Darswal said.

“India immediately needs help in provision of oxygen generators, concentrators, Ramdesivir antiviral drug

and raw materials for vaccines. It is heartening to know that the USA has agreed to source vaccine raw materials to India and extend help on other fronts too,” she said.

India is in the midst of a deadly wave of the COVID-19, with over 4 lakh new infections reported on Saturday, taking the caseload to 1,91,64,969. The death toll stands at 2,11,853, according to the Health Ministry.

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