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Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru February 01 , 2018
Incentives for cyber security infrastructure, retail pharmacies to adopt digital technologies, prioritise R&D, increased allocation for non communicable disease prevention and treatment are some of the expectations for the pharma and healthcare industry from Union budget 2018 to be announced on February 1.

In last year’s budget, the government announced setting up of CERTFIN which was a much needed initiative. We hope to see specific action points that will align with the digital transformation that India is undergoing. This budget must support development of cyber security infrastructure by focusing on people, process & technology. The expectations are benefits for local organizations to help increase qualified cyber security professionals, set up local compliance for data security & to waive off taxation for home grown cyber security technologies, said KK Mookhey, Founder & CEO, Network Intelligence.

According to Gagan Singh Bedi, managing director, AstraZeneca Pharma India, “The  single most important recommendation from industry remains that of increasing healthcare spend as share of GDP especially to address the high disease burden in the country. Impetus also needs to be provided to research & development to encourage innovation in India which currently stands at a meager 0.69% of GDP. Effective implementation of the National Health Policy 2017 is needed for prevention and management of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, asthma, heart diseases and cancer which is now becoming the leading cause of mortality in our country.”

From a fiscal perspective, the government will need to examine taxation and pricing policies, to ensure that we strike the right balance between what is feasible for the healthcare sector and what is best for the consumer, to deliver quality healthcare, said  Huzaifa Shehabi,  COO, Saifee Hospital.

Suresh Satyamurthy , CEO Tarnea Technology Solutions said that pharma retailers play a huge role in providing affordable healthcare to the masses and these ‘Good Health Warriors’ need to be armed with the latest digital technologies. The industry usually asks for tax reductions but its impact on price is temporary. But a digitally-enabled pharmaceutical value chain will result in permanent removal of inefficiencies which could save the industry over Rs.5,000 crore and unlock over Rs.40,000 crore in capital. Digital Pharma needs to be on-board with the Digital India vision of the government.

Abhishek Shah, Co-founder and CEO, Wellthy Therapeutics said that the government needs to step up allocation for prevention and treatment non-communicable diseases which is the single biggest cost in healthcare. NCDs contribute to 61% of all mortalities annually. Now WHO estimates that these will cost India almost $5 trillion dollars by 2030 and we have to stem the tide now. Universal healthcare(UHC) needs to be the next bold move by the government. In India, 62% of all healthcare expenses are still out-of-pocket, making UHC more of a need than a luxury. In the last decade, China, successfully expanded its UHC from a negligible number to 900 million with 95% coverage.

Shireesh Sahai, CEO, Wolters Kluwer India said that the government can play a significant role in both improving access to affordable healthcare and ensuring that the medical education system is world-class. Although there are a number of impactful initiatives in digital health, we still need investment in skill building. The government’s support to institutionalize digital technologies can be integrated with the healthcare delivery practices.”

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