Med-Tech: Health’s Quantum Formula
(i) Hospital – the physical infrastructure
(ii) Healthcare Professionals – doctors, nurses, technicians and other support staffs
(iv) Medical Device.
For a robust and self-dependent healthcare eco-system, all four pillars needs to be equally robust and flourishing, especially so in a country like India with a billion plus population and where affordable healthcare is but a necessity for the healthcare security of the nation. Without healthcare security - which implies affordable and accessible quality healthcare edifice developed largely with homegrown resources - India will forever be dependent on costly and avoidable imports, and forever the vast majority of our population will remain deprived of affordable healthcare and will preclude India from optimizing demographic dividend.
The world had long back understood and recognized that medicine and medical devices, despite being part of the same eco-system and designed to serve the same set of beneficiaries, were but two completely different entities! Enlightened policy makers around the globe had understood that both sectors required completely different nurturing and completely different set of legislation and regulations for developing them. In India, medical device sector continued to be governed by the archaic ‘Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940’ which was enacted primarily to regulate the pharma sector. The Act has no mention of medical devices and the governing ministry for medical devices – which is fundamentally a medico-engineering field – remains with Department of Pharmaceuticals.
The regulatory authority for medical devices too has continued to be the Drugs Controller of India. Till very recent past, the ministry or the regulatory body had no medical device expert on its panel. Our big focus on developing pharma sector had a great impact on the fortune of this sector which resulted in making India a net exporter by early 80s from being an importer till 70s. And by early 90s, India had emerged as the world’s largest exporter of generic drugs by volume.
On the other hand, the neglect of medical device sector had its own undesired consequences. The biggest one being – overdependency on imports. Our medical device import dependence was directly proportional to export growth of medicines! So, while India became the largest exporter of pharma in the world, it also became one of the largest importers of medical devices!
As of today, India imports nearly 80% of its medical device requirements amounting to outgo Rs.39,000 Crores of foreign exchange annually. The huge import dependency also has serious implications for national healthcare, a fact which is only being seriously recognized by policy makers only now. The import value of medical devices had touched a figure of nearly USD 5 billion in 2018. Medical devices today constitute among the top 10 import items for the country.
And in the absence of nurturing environment, despite a huge market and engineering capabilities, we were never able to develop a home-grown billion-dollar medical device company, unlike that of pharma which has many. In fact, the policy apathy and step-motherly treatment of this sector, led to a closing down of many home-grown medical device manufacturing companies. But remained just too oblivious and content to import without realizing that medical devices costed the economy a huge fortune in terms of dollar outgo. Anyway, the remains that domestic medical device sector till date is struggling to find its own roots under the overbearing shadow of other pillars of healthcare eco-system, specially its celebrated twin – the pharma sector.
It was against this background that the clarion call for ‘Make in India’ came from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and medical device was subsequently recognized as a flagship sector to be developed under this program. But how was one to achieve this objective remained the big question. The problem had been identified but did we have a viable solution? Medical device is not a simple manufacturing venture whereby you just machines and start manufacturing. As devices deal with human’s health, development and manufacturing of medical devices calls for extra care, deeper knowledge and comes loaded with myriad complexities. For high end devices and testing, there are proprietary technologies and processes which are a challenge to develop domestically. So, developing medical device sector requires not only policy support and financial assistance, it requires development of knowledge bank whereby research and innovations could be shared easily and cheaply with stakeholders. No piecemeal and disjointed solution would have worked. The development of a robust home-grown medical device sector required an integrated and innovative approach – the creation of a nest which truly nurture and mentor the sector, a catalytic hub which could play the part of friend, philosopher and guide to industry and entrepreneurs.
Thus, AMTZ – India’s first Medical Technology Zone and KIHT- Kalam Institute of Health Technology was conceived as a nest, a hub and epicenter for building and catalyzing a robust medical device eco-system in the country – a center of excellence where both research and manufacturing would take place and the center would ultimately become the inspiration and fountainhead for many such centers to spring up all over the country.
But easier said than done! Nothing comes easy in life, especially when one is on a mission to create something as monumental and as path-defining an institution as AMTZ. AMTZ is a story of grit, determination and realization of a strategic national dream. It is as much a tale of vision and as it is a study in management – how to realize a dream against heavy odds! Yes, we dared to dream and turned it into a reality!
Nothing like AMTZ exists in the Med-Tech world today! It is much more than a special centre of excellence dedicated to the promotion of a particular sector. AMTZ is world’s most prodigious and the most integrated research, manufacturing and marketing mission conceived to make India self-reliant on medical devices by building and nurturing a hitherto missing edifice in the healthcare security architecture of the nation. The fact that India could even dare to dream and make a reality of something as path-breaking and ambitious a mission as AMTZ is a tribute to the inherent ingenuity and entrepreneurship of India and people behind the mission.