The illness plaguing India’s pharmaceutical sector

The dropping quality of medical representatives is corroding the Indian pharma industry.

Pharmaceutical distribution and sales involve an intense interaction of science and business. It needs an extensively trained skill set. The woefully inadequate number of schools for training in skills and management functions is a crying shame. Such institutes are the need of the hour for the pharma industry in the country.

There has been a significant drop in the flow of prescriptions today as the Indian pharmaceutical industry has been witnessing a decline in the overall quality of its medical representatives (MRs). This is mainly on account of lack of training and support by the industry. In today’s fast-evolving industry, a basic educational qualification for becoming a medical sales representative should be mandatory. However, a significant proportion of non-science graduates—and even undergraduates in some cases— are doing the job.

In countries such as Russia, one requires to be a medical graduate to be a pharma sales representative. In the European Union, one needs to pass stringent examinations to become an MR. Once they qualify, they need to renew their certification every three years. The authorities in India are in dire need of reforming the MR qualification processes.

Due to a high demand for MRs and a shortage of supply, there are no systematic selection criteria for candidates, and the industry recruits whoever comes its way. The industry attrition rate today is at around 20%. As a result, companies have become wary of the money spent on training MRs; the duration of training has also come down. Many companies are avoiding training altogether and putting MRs on the field for the first six months. The training process, which used to involve a good two months of rigorous coaching of concepts like anatomy, physiology, therapy, prescription generation skills etc., has now come down to a mere seven days on average.

In today’s competitive world, the time spent by an MR in a healthcare professional’s clinic is shrinking to barely a few minutes or seconds as there are more than a 20 MRs present at a time to make a visit to a healthcare professional. Further, doctors’ disposition towards an MR has changed because of the availability of the knowledge on the internet, growth of generic medicines, and transactions made by managers. The doctors, therefore, do not gain any positive outcome from this engagement. The companies are promoting freebies and gifts to doctors directly through managers.

Consequently, sales growth through the ‘prescription generation’ model— where an MR depended on a doctor and a doctor depended on an MR for generating a prescription—has significantly declined. The company management is responsible for the creation of a direct freebie-based relationship with the doctors. Unless this disposition of doctors changes, the entire concept of MRs will lose its identity.

The falling support for MRs has been adversely impacting sales. There has been a significant increase in return of old and expired pharmaceutical stocks from stockists, which for a few companies stands at 4-5% today, way higher than the accepted limit of under 1%.

In the near future, when a revised code of ethics becomes mandatory, the act of providing freebies and gifts will be subject to punishment. In such a situation, companies will have to take drastic action on repurposing the utility and relevance of MRs for the sustenance of the industry.

A lot of devices and apps have entered the market that would enhance the communication of an MR with a doctor. However, Indian pharmaceutical companies are inadequately supplying their MRs with such technologies. Multinational companies are providing their MRs with these technologies, thereby improving their productivity and relationship with doctors.

Despite the odds, even after 50 years, the MR model is still working. One should not destroy the model as MRs could be still considered as the backbone of the industry. It could modify from one-on-one to one-to-many in hospitals to one-to-a-group of patients, towards a higher order. Let us not forget that the person who works in the field is only the MR. It is the MR who would generate the prescriptions and not the manager at the hospital.

Nevertheless, in this ever-evolving pharmaceutical industry, the significance of MRs is seen coming back, at least in certain super-specialty segments. For example, the demand for MRs for super-specialty and niche segments such as osteoarthritis, stents, cardiac care, brain, kidney, liver care, operation theatre-related products and the like has gone up.

The Indian pharmaceutical industry needs to simply revive the profession to its old glory. This could be best done by limiting a freebie-based promotional campaign system to the doctors, repurposing prescription generation, and a renewed focus on the reintroduction of adequate training and technological support to MRs. Let an honest, knowledge- and relationship-based system help the profession regain its prestige and help in furthering the ethical standards of the pharmaceutical industry.

Student felicitated for perception studies of herbal medicines at ‘Insight 2018’

Atul Prajapati, a healthcare management student won gold medal for the best ‘live project’ at the recently concluded ‘Insight 2018’ annual pharma conference held recently in Mumbai. The gold medal was instituted by leading pharma consultancy firm Interlink.

Atul won the gold for a project to find out perception of chemists and consumers on herbal medicines. He has also carried out preferences for wound cleansing and generate awareness on newer molecules.

‘Insight’ is an annual conference on pharma and healthcare organized by Mumbai-based education group IES. It aims at inspiring the young budding professionals by providing an insight into the current pharma and healthcare scenario. 

“We have been instituting the medal for the past four years at Insight. It will be a source of encouragement for ICS MCRC students who have excelled in the Live Project. There is a dearth of quality professionals in the pharma and healthcare industry in the country today. The industry and academia should encourage more such competitions, which could be good opportunity for spotting the right talent,” said Dr RB Smarta, managing director, Interlink. 

Among its varied consulting roles in areas including branding and due-diligence, Interlink has also been instrumental in providing skills-related training to pharma professionals, customized to the needs of the industry. 

Insight 2018 puts forth the perspective of patient care, patient delivery and patient monitoring in healthcare followed by panel discussion by industry experts. 

According to Dr Smarta, time is ripe for the industry to move into a patient oriented paradigm from a product oriented one. This will help in improving the quality of a patient’s life along with achieving positive clinical outcomes at a realistic economic expenditure, he said. Modern data-based technologies help in achieving effective patient monitoring and thereby good patient compliance, he observed. 

Future of pharmaceuticals

Jan 2019

i) Date: 4th Jan 2019

ii) Venue: SIESCOMS, Navi Mumbai

iii) Hosted/Organised by: On the occasion of 2nd World Pharma Brand Manager's Day, Centre of Excellence in HealthCare and SIES College of Management Studies has hosted conference on future of pharmaceutical marketing -Changing issues and challenges. 

iv) Theme : Future of Pharma Business, Pharma Marketing and Pharma Branding

v) Key note Speaker: Dr. R. B. Smarta

He has addressed how disruptive industry like Pharma should change the Business model and succeed. Similarly how to repurpose marketing and how pharma branding should move ahead from crossroads.

i) The audience: Industry Champions, Academicians, Authors, Journalists, Interlink contributors and  students 

ii) Key takeaways for the audience : 

1. How Disruptions were temporary from business point of view

2. How future business, marketing and branding will look like

3. How regulatory, innovation and digitization will improve branding

4. How ethics should come back in pharmaceutical business

5. Panel discussion and Workshop on how to build a brand in present environment

India Pharma Week

Dec 2018

South-Asia’s largest Pharmaceutical event- CPhI & PMEC India, is stepping in its 12th year success with Pharma Week from 12th to 14th December, 2018.

Over 10 years, the expo has grown from a three-day exhibition to a magnum opus that spans a week. India Pharma Week 2018 will hold over 10 events that will focus on business, knowledge, leadership, innovation, recognition and networking in the field of Pharma.

The grand stage of India Pharma Awards is back in its 6th year to celebrate the advances & achievements of the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry.

A part of the Recognition & Networking stream, India Pharma Awards 2018 will bring together industry champions, stalwarts & visionaries from around the world. The journey for the Awards has proved to be interesting with increased number of nominations, partnerships, and audience footfalls year on year. India Pharma Awards is not only a platform for the pharma companies in the country but also a platform that honors individual achievements within those companies, hence serving as the best platform for the universe of pharma.

India Pharma Awards, one of the most transparent & process driven awards are conducted professionally as well as methodically to draw out the best in the industry, and it stands as an opportunity to position your brand with the best in the Pharmaceutical space. This is done with a neutral Jury Panel representing various segments of the industry.

Seminar on Nutraceuticals

Nov 2018

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be the food”, a quote attributed to Hippocrates, is an evidence to the fact that the importance of food in maintaining health and quality of life was conceptualized more than 2500 years ago. Nutraceuticals, coined from the terms “nutrition” and “pharmaceuticals”, is a broad umbrella term that is used to describe foods (or parts of foods) that provide medical or health benefits. 

The genesis and growth of the nutraceutical industry can be attributed to numerous factors. Consumer awareness about the positive role of nutrition in improving health is constantly on the rise. In addition, regulatory bodies have been consistently becoming supportive of promotion of use of nutraceuticals and functional foods for improving public health. 

Despite the constant growth in the nutraceutical sector, there is scope for developing effective ways to improve the in vivo bio-availability and efficacy of these nutraceutical molecules. The seminar aims to lay a strong foundation on the novel polyherbal delivery formulations, clinical, IPR and regulatory concerns related to nutraceuticals. The seminar would serve as platform for formulation scientists, business leaders and researchers to exchange knowledge and discuss proposals regarding further development of nutraceuticals.


Oct 2018

The 19th World Congress of Food Science & Technology was hosted by The International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST), a country-membership organisation, and is also the global voice of food science and technology. It is the only representative for the discipline of Food Science and Technology elected into the International Council for Science (ICSU). It is a voluntary, non-profit federation of national food science organisations linking the world’s food scientists and technologists. IUFoST has over 300,000 members from more than 75 countries through its Adhering Bodies, and 5 regional groupings to form a pool of expert resource.

The 19th World Congress of Food Science & Technology was organised to showcase the global developments in all the facets of food science and technology through 60 plus parallel scientific sessions with the participation of 250 plus speakers with rich expertise in their respective areas of specialization. The Congress brought together Thought Leaders, Policy Makers, Researchers, Food Fraternity and Industry Captains to cover the latest advances in our understanding of Food in all its avatars.

The 19th IUFoST World Congress of Food Science and Technology was a 5-day action packed Scientific Conference which included Workshops, Poster Sessions, Expo and Networking Socio-cultural programmes. Researchers, academicians, professionals, policymakers and industry converged to exchange innovative ideas, showcase new products and drive policy issues.


August 10 & 11, 2018 HITEX Exhibition Centre, Hyderabad

Organizer: UBM in India is the country’s leading exhibition organiser that provides the industry with platforms that bring together buyers and sellers from around the world, through a portfolio of exhibitions, content led conferences & seminars. Established in 2006, UBM in India hosts over 25 large scale exhibitions and 40 conferences across the country every year. This enables trade across multiple industry verticals including advanced manufacturing, business services and infrastructure, fashion, food, hospitality and leisure, jewellery and gem, lifestyle and brands, life science & healthcare, pharma and biopharma, resources, technology, transport & logistics.  As part of UBM Asia, UBM India has offices across Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai

Date: August 10 & 11, 2018 HITEX Exhibition Centre, Hyderabad

About Event:

PharmaLytica conference, collocated with the exhibition is the knowledge forum and important industry gathering that brings you entire range of topics in analytical, outsourcing, laboratory, scientific & biotechnology sector. PharmaLytica is evolving as the leading marketplace for products and services along the entire value chain in niche segments within the Pharma industry.

Interlink’s Presentation: Quality Culture Parameters Concept & Practices


July 25, 2018 at New Delhi

To educate attendees on the regulatory framework for functional foods in important jurisdictions, and detail important market developments

To facilitate optimal business strategies and encourage innovative product development within the industry

To provide an ideal platform to disseminate the values of functional ingredients, novel foods and finished products, and their contribution to the consumers’ health

Interlink’s Presentation: Unlocking the Potential of Nutraceuticals

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