India special: Medicines of the future

By Clare Wilson THE 170-kilometre road trip from Mumbai to Pune presents a rich slice of Indian life. The traffic-choked route out of Mumbai passes through mile after mile of slums where people’s lives spill out onto the street – they shower, cook and eat within a metre of the car window. The jams ease through the sister city of New Mumbai, a modern metropolis of skyscrapers, parks and shopping centres. Then we drive onto an Indian rarity, a six-lane motorway, running all the way to Pune. But there is still no doubting where I am: “No bullock carts,” proclaims a sign by the roadside. The reason for my journey is to visit the research headquarters of pharmaceutical company Lupin, set amid fields and hills outside Pune. India’s drugs industry is undergoing a revolution. For decades it has flourished under the country’s unusual patent laws, under which patents can be taken out on the processes needed to make medicines, but not on the drugs themselves. So the industry prospered by inventing new methods of manufacturing the west’s blockbuster drugs, and churning out cheap “generic” versions for sale in India and other developing countries. In the process,
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