One of the more intriguing episodes of our trip to India was a visit to the headquarters of Emcure Pharmaceuticals on the outskirts of Pune. Now I'm not an expert in the production of generic drugs, but one could not help but be impressed by their enthusiasm and attention to detail.
One thing that did hit home though was the costs of production. It was claimed that they could produce a range of commonly prescribed drugs at less than a quarter of the cost currently paid by the NHS, a notion that, if true, could drastically reduce its running costs. At a time when all budgets are under pressure, such savings could prove to be extremely helpful.
The delegation were then led outside to an area of lawn with trees along one side. A small tree was waiting for us, ready to be planted alongside a sign listing the members. In years to come, visitors will know that Liberal Democrats were there, which is reassuring in a small way.
Next, we were taken to the new production facility, a state of the art plant, with an entirely sealed production line to protect staff from the component elements of the product. And yes, there was some dressing up to be done, with protective suits, boots and headgear. Your correspondent looked vaguely silly, but needs must, as they say. I asked about the financial viability of their investment in the plant, and was astonished to be told that it was profitable working at just 10% of capacity.
At the moment, India is focused on production rather than research and development. If that emphasis changed, prospects for the great pharmaceutical companies of the West must be grim. On the other hand, the potential financial benefits for health providers will be vast.
Finally, we were taken to lunch. I was slightly distracted by news from home, but that's another story...