In the space of a decade, China and India have emerged as dramatic, dynamic competitors. -Peter Mandelson, British MP

Clinical trials have become, in recent years, an integral part of the Indian economy. The industry is estimated to boost the economy by over one billion dollars per year, due to pharmaceutical company investment within the country. ‘The clinical trial market in India is expanding rapidly at a growth rate of over 30% in 2010,’ Clinical Trials In India.

Pharmaceutical companies have always favored holding clinical trials in India due to its low cost of living, its low cost labor force, and more importantly it’s nationally high rates of illness. Equally, it is estimated that over a third of the Indian population will or are suffering from a chronic illness. The estimate is extremely high if you compare it to countries such as The United Kingdom, or The United States. India has high rates of cancer, high rates of diabetes and the highest rate of heart disease in the world. Additionally, some of the largest pharmaceutical companies, such as Merck and AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson have held their clinical trials in India.
Interestingly, on the surface, the interdependent relationship between the pharmaceutical companies and India appears to be mutually beneficial. India’s economy is enhanced; healthcare and life sciences are advancing. However, this idealized affiliation comes at a cost, at least for the host country. Moreover, India’s reliance on the funding it gains from allowing pharmaceutical companies to hold clinical testing in its country could be considered dangerous, and even sometimes unethical. It has been suggested that pressure from various pharmaceutical companies has been applied to the health and life sciences industry, in order to reduce some of the restrictions on clinical trials in India. Equally, reports of unethical practice from medical staff within the country have emerged, with doctors abusing the confidence of patients, and in some instances putting their patients on clinical trial drugs without their knowledge.

Moreover, further pressure has been applied to the Indian Healthcare sector to meet demands of large pharmaceuticals, with some companies having now relocated their operations to China. Furthermore, this has had a knock off effect within the Indian economy, as it effectively means that resources that the Indian economy have come to rely on are being redistributed to the economy of one of their emerging market competitors. Equally, the pressure to limit the sanctions on clinical trials within India is heightened, through anxiety that China will comply to the demands on reducing their regulations.

Overall, it seems disquieting that large multinational companies should be able to apply the level of pressure that appears to be apparent in this case. Equally, it should concern us anytime unethical practices are being encouraged. India’s economy is growing, and one could argue that the country is conscious that it is also competing with powerful economies like China, Brazil and other equally rapidly growing emerging markets. In the same way it is evident that there needs to be more measures in place to maintain ethical relationships between international businesses and international economies, reducing exploitation should remain at the forefronts of our minds.

The AESC has over 150 executive recruiters located throughout India, all with access to your BlueSteps career profile and CV.


This article was written by Helen Langley of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).
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