Express Healthcare|March 2020
India as a nation has followed the west for decades when it comes to research-based treatments. The sun is fast setting on this methodology and there is a massive need to invest in healthcare research in the country
Prabhat Prakash

I believe in innovation and that the way you getinnovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts,” Bill Gates.

Research is the fundamental aspect that can change the way we look at things and find answers that we are seeking or provide us with other vital information that can lead to a breakthrough in technology, market, medicine, treatment and every field that it is used in.

Over the years we have looked up to the West seeking answers for the problems faced by Indians at large. Eventually we have realised that one size doesn't fit all. We as a country need to invest in research so that we have the answers to our healthcare woes. Hence, it becomes all the more important for India as a nation to invest in clinical and technological research.

In this article we seek to examine ways by which India can create a research culture in healthcare.

Scope of research and how India can gain from it

India's healthcare scenario is quite different from the western countries. With a large and diverse population, varied demographics and socio-economic status, our healthcare problems and demands are unique. For example, (See Box 1 and Box 2). Therefore, experts feel the need to develop a healthcare ecosystem that thrives on evidence-based research for India. Dr D Nageshwar Reddy, Chairman, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology and Asian Healthcare Foundation states, “Today by and large we follow western standards in treating patients, which may not be the right way in the changed global scenario. Therefore, conducting India centric research will lead to improving standards of healthcare. For example: We at AIG Hospitals and others have observed that Indian population does not follow the western pattern of polyp to cancer sequence in Colorectal cancers. Hence for these colorectal cancer patients in India we need to develop separate SOP’s from western counterparts. Such situations are enormous.”

Ramanan Laxminarayan, Founder, HealthCube mentions “In any country, long-term growth comes from innovation and improvements in productivity, both of which are facilitated by research. Without research and innovation, India will remain a laggard in economic growth. The days of copying western products (whether in pharma or automobiles) are over. India is home to many of the world’s health problems and at a scale not seen elsewhere.

Laxminarayan further adds “In cancer for instance, there is an opportunity to both study a variety of cancers but also to develop novel therapeutics and diagnostic approaches including using genomics and organoids to tackle cancer not just in India but the world over. As paradoxical as it may sound, our problems are our strength, if we choose to leverage these to create solutions that can benefit the whole world. Imagine the kind of studies we could do on mental health disorders or brain research and the value it could have to much wealthier populations! When India developed the 115E rotavirus vaccine along with the Americans, that created an opportunity to lower the cost of vaccination for everyone in the world while creating a whole industry in India. That’s the kind of progress that will take us to a $5 trillion economy.”

As pointed out by Laxminarayan and Dr Reddy, we can gain a lot from investment in research and also provide solutions to the world. We are the pharmacy of the world and even the treatments that we offer are world class with one-third of the price charged world over, finding answers to solve large healthcare problems can make us the healthcare provider of the world.


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March 2020