Indian pharmaceutical exports in 2010 are expected to rise 20% this year to reach 500 billion rupees ($11.6 billion), according to official forecasts.

The increase over last year's total of 420 billion rupees will be due to an increased number of patent expiries and greater acceptance of generic drugs worldwide, plus the industry's emergence from the recession, says P V Appaji, executive director of India's Pharmaceutical Exports promotion Council (Pharmexcil). More than one-third of the Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDAs) filed worldwide originate from India, he noted.

Indian pharma exports grew just 4.3% in 2009-10, but this was the only year that the sector was impacted by the recession, said Dr Appaji, adding that, without 2009-10's trading, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has been growing at a compound annual rate of 17% in recent years.

Indian drugmakers export to 220 countries in all, with formulations accounting for 56% of the total, bulk drugs for 42% and herbals and ayurveda for 2%. India's biggest customer currently is the US, accounting for 22% of the sector's exports, followed by Africa with 16% and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with 8%. The sector is now focusing on increasing sales to Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine and Vietnam, he said.

Sales to Japan are also expected to increase following the signing last week of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and Japan, which will abolish duties on more than 90% of goods traded within 10 year, added Dr Appaji. While Japan is the world's second-largest pharmaceutical market after the US, it currently represents only a small market for India pharma. However, the Japanese government is encouraging the use of generics and he forecast that the market should account for at least 5% of Indian drug exports within the next three to four years.