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Rising burden of NCDs impacts Indian healthcare scene


Thursday, October 11, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Gagan-Singh-Bedi.jpgIndia is experiencing a rapid demographic and epidemiological transition with NCDs causing significant disability, morbidity and mortality across all socio-economic strata. In its 40th year, AstraZeneca India has announced its commitment to invest $90 million over the next five years to strengthen its manufacturing, clinical operations, patient safety, regulatory science, IT services and commercial operations. The investment will support scientific data generation, quality manufacturing, science talent development and collaborative development of innovative solutions to improve the standard of NCDs care in India, says Gagan Singh Bedi, managing director, AstraZeneca Pharma India in an exclusive interview with Nandita Vijay. Excerpts:
 
How would you portray the pharma industry in India and globally?
Scientific advancements and technological innovation from pharma industry in India and globally is driving better health outcomes. The future of treatment for many of today’s diseases lies in uncovering mechanisms that are emerging or still to be discovered.  The best way the industry can  help patients is to focus on breakthroughs in  science and co-create innovative healthcare delivery solutions that improve access and lead to better health outcomes.
 
How do you see research capability to spur the growth of pharma sector?
The last decade alone has seen significant leaps in scientific research and technological innovation. Novel drug discoveries are improving quality of life and extended survival rates for diseases which had limited treatment options earlier. Treatment mechanisms are evolving and becoming more sophisticated. A key example is stem cell technology which has emerged as a new frontier in drug discovery. The revolution in DNA sequencing methodology has allowed us to understand cancer at the genetic level and is leading to the development of many new medicines. Alongside this has been research aiming to turn patients’ own immune cells into weapons against cancer.
 
There is an increasing adoption of artificial intelligence by pharma industry. Could you provide your views on this?
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are being applied in fields as varied as mapping cellular pathways, automating histology, and lead optimisation chemistry programs.  Cutting edge scientific advancements fuelled by synergistic academic-industry collaborations to bring these benefits to patients will continue to spur the growth of  pharma sector.

What are the initiatives taken by AstraZeneca for the cure and control of NCDs which is a bane of India?
India is experiencing a rapid health transition with a rising burden of non communicable diseases (NCDs), which are emerging as the leading cause of fatality in India. WHO estimates that NCDs now account for 60 per cent of the disease burden and are being diagnosed with increasing frequency. Further, the country is also experiencing rapid demographic and epidemiological transition with NCDs causing significant disability, morbidity and mortality both in urban and rural populations and across all socio-economic strata. Every year, roughly 5.8 million Indians succumb to heart and lung diseases, stroke, cancer and diabetes. In other words, one in four Indians risk dying from an NCD before they reach the age of 70 as per WHO observations.
 
How does the company plan to commemorate its 40- year journey in India after its inception on July 11, 1979?
AstraZeneca is proud to mark its 40th year of long-standing commitment to India this year. We are committed to further strengthen our footprint and commitment to transform patient lives in crucial disease areas in India such as diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, asthma and COPD.
 
In its 40th year, the company has  announced its commitment to invest $90 million over the next five years to strengthen its manufacturing, clinical operations, patient safety, regulatory science, IT services and commercial operations. The investment will support scientific data generation, quality manufacturing, science talent development and collaborative development of innovative solutions to improve the standard of NCDs care in India.
 
What are the significant achievements for the company during its 40 years stint in India?
The focus therapy areas are Cardiovascular, Renal, Metabolic diseases, Respiratory and Oncology where we have a portfolio of new medicines with the potential to transform patients’ lives. Going by the rising burden of NCDs in India, we aim to continuously bring scientific advancements to redefine treatment. Through initiatives like the Young Health Programme, Early Action in Diabetes and Healthy Lung, we will address the burden of NCDs through early prevention, detection and comprehensive management of diseases.  
 
Further, efforts are on to enhance the scientific capabilities in India by generating local evidence through clinical operations.  We recently announced the expansion of the Global Medicines Development (GMD) Unit in India which focuses on transforming breakthrough molecules into medicines and monitor their use and safety. The GMD team in India has been recruiting scientific experts for regulatory science, clinical and patient safety. The company has also opened its first Global Technology Centre in India that delivers end-to-end IT delivery solutions. AstraZeneca India's manufacturing facility at Bengaluru conforms to WHO cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) norms and has bagged recognitions by the government of Karnataka for its performance management and safety systems.  
 
Would this be a year-long celebration for the company?
Yes the 40th business anniversary is a key milestone and we are looking forward to celebrating our journey of bringing science to patients with collaboration commitments, employee and customer engagement initiatives and programmes aimed at making a meaningful difference to the communities we serve in.
 
Among these are a nationwide community service programme in partnership with Plan India, a not-for-profit organisation which specifically addresses adolescent health issues.  We will create awareness on NCD prevention from marginalised communities across multiple cities which would help over 3,000 young people through this programme.  
 
Since the focus is NCDs for the 40th anniversary, could you detail the public-patient engagement programmes?
Statistics indicate adolescents aged 10-19 years constitute about 21 per cent of India’s population. This necessitates programmes that  focus on the health and well-being of this large, yet very vulnerable population. Further, evidence suggests that over 33 per cent of the disease burden and almost 60 per cent of premature deaths among adults could be associated with behaviour that began or occurred during adolescence. Therefore the AstraZeneca’s National Community Service programme will deal with the four risk behaviours associated with NCDs such as lack of exercise, tobacco use, alcohol abuse and unhealthy eating habits. We would reach out to government schools and communities to create awareness and sensitise the youth on these risk behaviour through street plays, skits, counselling sessions, sports events, drawing and quiz competitions using information and educational materials.
 
Could you give us an update on the Young Health Programme started in resettlement colonies in Delhi for NCDs prevention? Is the company looking at other states for the same?
Under the AstraZeneca global community investment initiative ‘The Young Health Programme’, now in its 8th year of successful implementation in marginalised communities in Delhi has so far benefited more than 250,000 adolescents and reached out to 140,000 members of the wider community including parents, teachers, health workers and policy makers. Over 3,600 peer educators have been trained under the programme. Under YHP, Health Information Centres (HICs) were set-up. Based on the learning from global YHPs, developing policy briefs, training young people to become youth advocates of the programme and representing its goals at prestigious health forums are planned in India too. The National Health Policy 2017 also targets adolescent health and AstraZeneca YHP is an example of this in action.
 
What are the key employee engagements during this phase?
Several employee engagement and recognition initiatives are planned. They are also a key component of the AstraZeneca’s National Community Service Programme. Our employees are trained to organise awareness sessions, health camps and sensitize young people on risk behaviours associated with NCDs and help them make informed health choices now and in future.

 

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pradeep awasthi Oct 16, 2018 9:23 AM
This is more evident health status that is being noticed globally in last two decades of span which indicates alarming rise in prevalence of NCDs such as diabetes,heart diseases and lung disorders contributing to higher risk of morbidity and mortality.Though many Indian companies are in forefront to combat with this ever rising ailments by developing newer therapies which can help in taking necessary intervention at early stages for delaying its progression by preventing its consequences.
Astra Zeneca is highly commited to strengthen its portfolio for creating a newer hopes to counteract this upsurge of NCDs to the human lives.Its quite interesting to see their future perspectives which are more inclined to address the need of hour for protecting patient lives for better health and survival.
 
 
 
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