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CRO: Boom Time for India

Arun Veembur
Monday, May 31, 2004
Arun Veembur
India is quite ill, really. Not only do we have nearly every disease in the book, we also have them in alarmingly large numbers. If our life expectancy is 63, it’s an astonishing thing, considering the kind of blights that pervade India.

We have Alzheimer’s (1.5 million), asthma (40 million) bronchitis, cardiovascular diseases (30m), cancer (3m) diabetes (34m), epilepsy (8m), filaria, measles, meningitis, malaria, psychiatric disorders (10m), STDs, TB, tetanus and some yet-to-be-discovered symptoms in abundance. We even have horrible vector-borne diseases like kala-azar (curiously, also known as Dum Dum fever) which, in bad years like 1992, caused errant sandflies to bite as many as 75,523 unfortunates in Bihar, out of which 1417 died.

All this unhealth seem to have turned out to be a mixed curse: pharma companies from the United States and Europe are feverishly rushing to India to test out their drugs on the hordes of ill people.

Phase Value
As usual, there is the cost factor. Developing a new drug is a costly affair. A study by the Tufts Centre for the Study of Drug Development said that it cost as much as $802 million in 2001 to bring a new drug out, as compared to $231 million in 1987.

The interesting point is that while the total research costs increased at 7.4% per year, the cost of human clinical trials increased at nearly 12% every year, in real terms. This means that if companies can cut down on the cost of the clinical trials, then that’s quite a significant amount of money they can free for other projects.

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