Nearly 70 per cent of all listed pharma companies lost between 2.5-7.4 per cent on Thursday as investors took fright from a statement made by US President-elect Donald Trump wherein he accused drug makers of higher prices in the world's largest market for prescription medicines.
As many as 87 export oriented pharma companies out of 126 lost ground on the Bombay Stock Exchange. They fell in line with their US counterparts after Trump criticised drug makers in his address.
The NSE's healthcare index also slumped 1 percent to 10,363 points, making it the top losing benchmark. The index had opened sharply lower but saw a mild recovery as traders partially covered the short positions.
“Our drugs industry has been disastrous. They are leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but do not make them here,'' Trump told a televised audience in his first appearance after his surprise electoral win.
“The other thing we have to do is create new bidding procedures for the drugs industry because they are getting away with murder. We are the largest buyer of drugs in the word and yet we don't bid properly…. we are going to save billions of dollars over a period of time.''
India's $36 billion pharma industry has the US as its main export market. More than half of the topline for major drug makers comes from the US and other overseas markets as Indian generic medicines are priced inexpensively and are of top quality.
Prescription drugs worth $325 billion were purchased in the US during 2015, data shows. Indian drug makers are among the most competitive globally when it comes to making quality generics.
The past year has been the toughest in a decade for the Indian drugs sector as increasingly intrusive scrutiny from the US Foods & Drugs Administration has resulted in warning letters, import alerts and, in one case, an outright ban on export of Indian medicines to the US.
The top three companies — Sun Pharma, Dr. Reddy's and Lupin — have fallen between 29-46 percent from their highs mostly as a consequence of USFDA's actions. The top five pharma companies get about half of their yearly sales from the US, the world's largest market for medicines.
There could be a silver lining to the current dispute. Trump's stance may actually benefit Indian generic makers in the medium term as lower prices would actually result in quicker processing of applications and permissions by the US FDA.
Here is some price action on pharma stocks on Thursday:
Sun Pharmaceuticals, India's top drug exporter, fell 1.6% to 637.80 rupees. Dr. Reddy's dropped 1.7% to 2,990 rupees. Aurobindo Pharma lost 1.9% to 691.40 rupees. Lupin fell 1% to 1,506 rupees and Cadila Healthcare down 2.3% to 348.40 rupees.