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Jatin Thakker has a mission: Save human lives

Last updated on: May 31, 2012 11:19 IST

Jatin Thakker has a mission: Save human lives

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Ganesh Nadar

T
obacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless we act, it will kill up to 8 million people by 2030, of which more than 80 per cent will live in low- and middle-income countries.

Like every year May 31 is observed as the World No Tobacco Day. Tobacco industry interference is the theme this year.

The campaign will focus on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry's brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine global tobacco control efforts.

And if you wish to quit smoking without having to go through the trauma of withdrawal symptoms, you can always opt for Nobacco. In an interview with rediff.com, Jatin Thakker, managing director of Gelnova Laboratories that manufactures and markets Nobacco in India said, when you smoke a cigarette you get 1 mg of nicotine is ten minutes. Nobacco gives you the same nicotine in the same time, but it's cleaner.

The Navi Mumbai-based pharma company pioneers in novel gel delivery system (NGDS) for smoking cessation products or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products in pastille form for the first time in world.

Pastilles are hard jelly like preparation in cuba shape which is a mixture of glycerin and gelatin to which medicament is added. Pastilles release active substance in a finely distributed way that gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Excerpts:

Before you started making Nobacco what were you manufacturing?

My family is in the drugs manufacturing field for 50 years. I am a Chemical Engineer. Earlier I was the MD of a company that was making timed release medicines. Such medicines are released into the human system over a period of time. Our specialty was drug delivery system. Tablets, capsules, syrups, patches were used.

The gel we are using now is unique and we have patented it all over the world. It has already been granted a license in two countries. The whole process, from clinical trials to having the product patented, to getting the necessary registration takes about six years.

As far as the product is concerned we have made certain that none of the normal side effects of nicotine like hiccups, coughing or nausea are there. These are reduced because of the delivery system. If we give you a product that you don't enjoy then you won't take it. So we have researched enough to make it as pleasurable as possible.

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Before founding this company what did you do?

We had a company in partnership with others.

What was the capital of your company when you started?

It was about Rs 12 - 13 crore ( Rs 120-130 million).

What is your turn over today?

It is Rs 60 crore (Rs 600 million) today.

How much money did you spend on Nobacco's R & D?

So far Rs 6 crore (Rs 60 million).

Why do you say so far?

Clinical trials are on in other countries. Some countries demand local trials when we apply for a patent. It will take another couple of crores before we are done with it.

What is your yearly budget for R&D?

People spend very little on R&D but we have spent a lot on this particular product. We have spent Rs 50 lakh (Rs 5 million) every year. We have gone the extra mile because of its huge potential. 1.2 billion people smoke cigarettes. If you put a dollar per person it's a $1.2 billion industry per day!

How does the product work?

When you smoke a cigarette you get 1 mg of nicotine is ten minutes. This gives you the same nicotine in the same time, but it's cleaner. Cigarettes have lot of other harmful chemicals which is not present in Nobacco. I actually thought of this product in 1988 when I smoked 30 cigarettes a day.

I tried other tablets in the market to quit. But the nicotine tasted very bad. So I decided to make this product some day. We actually imported this product from abroad. Putting nicotine into it was my idea.

We have also made it sugar free.

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You think people quit smoking because of Nobacco?

Nine out of ten people quit because of an emotional reason. Nobacco helps them in that.

What is your target audience?

In India 30 crore people consume tobacco. Let me take 10 per cent into consideration which is 30 lakh. If I can stop one per cent of them, i.e. 3 lakh, I will consider it a success.

Do Indian companies do much research?

If we had done proper research we would not be in the doldrums we are in now. My focus has always been on research from day one.

We don't see much publicity?

We have launched it only in Mumbai and there is radio centric publicity only.

The tablet is as expensive as a cigarette?

I spent a lot on research and it is helping save lives. I had wanted to price it Rs 100 a packet of ten. Because of the cigarette pricing I had to price it Rs 50 pack. All the three strengths are available for the same price. That way I can get to the cigarette and gutka users.

Once the volumes go up, we will reduce the price. As it's a social cause I think Doordarshan and All India Radio should give me reduced rates for ads and I can further reduce prices.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Do you get any bad vibes from the tobacco industry?

No! I am too small a fry for them to be upset about. They are giants.

What other products are you planning?

We have planned two other products. One is to prevent the ill effects of alcohol and the other to prevent obesity.

Are you exporting this product?

We are planning to export it to 15 countries. We have marketing partners there and we will be sending it to them. It takes two years to register it in any country. We are selling it in Mumbai and very small markets abroad like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

In Mumbai alone 30 lakh people smoke. I have not reached this target yet.

What, according to you, is the weakness of the Indian pharma industry?

Research. When Viagra was launched in the US, an Indian company launched it three months later. Then dozens followed. The cost per molecule is $1 billion. For every molecule that succeeds there are 20 molecules that fail.

We are in trouble because we do not do research. We will be in more trouble if we continue to avoid research. We are only interested in saving taxes. All research is about how to save taxes. We are more interested in photo copying than in research.

I studied in the US and there we were taught that research is the main part of any business. I follow that principle.

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What should the government do to help the pharma industry?

In the pharma industry the price is controlled by the government, thus they control the profit margin. There is no money left for research.

Has liberalisation helped your industry?

What liberalisation? There is no liberalisation in our industry. I just told you that they control both the price and profits.

Is there more access to foreign drugs after 1991?

There are no restrictions on getting drugs. You can get whatever you want as long as you are following international law. The government can help us if they leave us alone commercially but they won't do that.

In Costa Rica the government buys Nobacco from us and gives it free to their poor people. Why can't the government do it here instead of controlling the price? You subsidise it at your end, you don't penalise the industry.

They can ask for a lower price because there is no cost of marketing and also they order in bulk. Six out of 8 deaths are related to tobacco. Don't you think they should help us? They make so much money on tobacco sales, why can't they spend some of it on curing people of the habit.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Which age group uses Nobacco?

When we researched we found that the 40-plus population wants to quit. After we launched we found that those in their twenties are most eager to quit. This generation is more health conscious than ours.

What are your future plans?

The market for Nobacco is so vast that for the next 20 years we are going to concentrate on that only. We have another product that helps you sleep in 15 minutes but it is not a sleeping tablet. It is not an anti depressant. Sleeping tablets calm you down so that you sleep.

There is an enzyme that makes you sleep when the sun goes down. When that switch doesn't work you cannot sleep. Our tablet is that switch. In America it is sold over the counter for many years.

Then we have a tablet which if you put in your mouth and keep it there, 30 minutes later there are no bacteria in your mouth. It has cleaned everything up. So if you have it in the night, when you wake up in the morning you don't need to brush your teeth.




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