India's exports of generics have been growing at a rate of 24% per year over the last four years, and are set to continue this "explosive growth," an international conference has been told.

India's pharmaceutical exports for 2012-13 totaled $14.7 billion, 55% of which was sold in highly-regulated western markets, according to representatives of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) and the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), speaking at the CPhI Worldwide conference in Frankfurt, Germany.

The government has set a target for pharmaceutical exports to hit $25 billion by 2016, the conference heard.

Last year, India was recognised by the Supply Annual Report of UNICEF – the United Nations’ children’s fund – as the world’s largest supplier of generics, and in developing countries it is “single-handedly” improving access to life-saving medicines, the officials noted.  For example, the cost of HIV/AIDS treatment has been lowered to $400 per year from $12,000, said Sudhanshu Pandey, joint secretary at the Department of Commerce within India’s Ministry of Commerce and industry.

The officials pointed to the initiatives being put in place by the government to cement India’s position as “pharmacy of the world.”  It has made tax breaks available for the pharmaceutical sector and a weighted tax deduction of 150% for any R&D expenditure incurred, introduced 19 dedicated Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to help stimulate investment in the pharmaceutical sector across the country and set aside $478.4 million to establish 10 new National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER).

As a result of these initiatives, it is predicted that R&D expenditure will continue to grow at an average annual rate of nearly 20% for the next several years, they said.

During the last three years, India’s exports of pharmaceuticals have been increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17%, and this is expected to rise to a CAGR of around 20% over the next five years, noted Pharmexcil’s director general, Dr PV Appaji.

• Meantime, international sales for India’s 25 leading drugmakers increased by an average of 27.8% in 2012-13, compared with growth of just 13.8% for their domestic sales, according to a recent survey by the Indian industry journal Pharmabiz. Overseas sales accounted for an average of 67% of total turnover for the companies, while for nine of them it represented more than 80% of consolidated net sales, the survey shows.