Some of the large-selling medicines from multinational drug companies may soon be available to villagers in India at a cheaper price.
Novartis, Europe’s third-largest drugmaker, is planning to stock retail drug shops in villages with 58 medicines for common rural illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
Switzerland-based Novartis has started a program in 2007 called Arogya Parivar, or “good health of the family” in Hindi to promote drug supply to remote India villages that lack proper access to healthcare and medicines.
More than 500 trained people will link with doctors and teach villagers on various diseases and other malnutrition aspect such as about the need to take iron and calcium supplements, which Novartis makes, during pregnancy.
Novartis has already reached 42 million people in India’s countryside and is planning to make its medicines accessible to 100 million people in the next two years.
Sanofi-Aventis, is another MNC which wants to sell low-cost versions of its 10 large-selling brands such as antibiotic cefixime, painkiller tramadol and anti- allergen levocetirizine in rural India.
Sanofi, which is currently Europe’s fourth-largest drugmaker, started a program called Prayas, or “endeavor,” last year to increase sales in local markets.
Sanofi uses over 300 salespeople to stock village pharmacies with these medicines so that they will be readily available for villagers.
Sanofi too plans to reach 100,000 rural medical practitioners by 2015.
Not only multinational drug firms, India-based companies like Ranbaxy and Elder Pharma are also planning to increase their sales in rural areas of India.
Recently, Daiichi- Ranbaxy said it was planning to boost its sales team by 50% by hiring about 1,500 marketing executives to focus on India’s rural areas.
Ranbaxy, which currently has a sales team of nearly 3,000, would augment its marketing force to penetrate deeper into the rural markets, reports said.
The company will hire regional managers and area managers by July besides massively recruiting medical representatives to focus on smaller cities and towns.
The Mumbai-based Elder Pharma also plans to expand rural division Elvista. Elvista looks after the rural and semi urban markets of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra, Bengal and Bihar and certain areas in South India.
Elvista, however, aims to penetrate upto new 1,500 villages, with population of below 40,000, 300 villages with population of 40,000 to 1,00,000 and over 75 peripheral villages and towns around Mumbai Metropolitan region.
Elder Pharma also plans to reach out hospitals, nursing homes and private healthcare institutions in rural and semi-urban areas.
Elder would launch nearly a dozen new products in this financial year in India.
Cheaper, generic medicines are usually sold in the drug stores of India’s countryside. 456 million Indians live on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank estimates.
Infant mortality rate in India was 52 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008, compared with the global average of 45, according to the World Health Organization. India’s health ministry aims to reduce that rate to less than 30 by 2012.
Occurrence of tuberculosis or TB is 190 cases per 100,000 people in 2008 compared with the global average of 170.
Although urbanisation continues, around 70% of India’s population still resides in rural areas. This untapped potential is now the next volume driver for the industry, but foreign companies looking to access rural markets face many hurdles, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Global pharma looks to India: Prospects for growth.