Despite The Spreading Fear, Pharmacists Not Pressing Panic Button Just Yet

It’s not just the pharmaceutical industry and the government, but pharmacists too that are keeping a close watch on the demand, supply and price movements of basic medicines, especially paracetamol.

This comes at a time when the ongoing coronavirus crisis in China has put pressure on supplies of raw material and active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) imports by India, estimated at about $2.5 billion 2018-19.

Industry players fear that the scare of supply disruptions will trigger hoarding by stockists, who artificially push up prices. Ground reports suggest that is already happening. Prices of paracetamol are reportedly seeing a spike of 40 per cent. Further, small pharma manufacturers, who face a shortage of raw material may face a squeeze of supplies from China if imports don’t resume by mid-March.

However, druggists and pharmaceutical manufacturers who BusinessLine spoke to, said that the heightened fears were unwarranted. Gujarat State Pharmacy Council’s Dr Prakash Shah said that supplies are available and there is no disruption as yet.

“We don’t see any major impact on the supplies due to China virus fears. There are two reasons for this; first, Indian manufacturers have enough inventory with them to meet the temporary supply disruptions from China. Second, paracetamol is a simple molecule, so it can be produced by even small manufacturers,” said Shah ruling out the likelihood of supply disruptions in the retail market.

Recently, Pankaj Patel, Chairman of Zydus Cadila, one of the largest players in the Indian pharma space, had expressed fears of supply disruptions from China leading to acute shortage of the raw material, thereby resulting in a price rise.

However, Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) has ruled out the possibility of short supply of the drug. HG Koshia, Commissioner, FDCA – Gujarat, told BusinessLine, “These fears are far from real. Most of the large players have their own API manufacturing plants and sourcing the raw material is not a problem for them. Also, there is enough inventory at the stockist level and at the manufacturer level.”

In touch with China

Koshia also stated that the situation in China appears to be seeing some improvement. “We are regularly in touch with the Chinese authorities and what we hear from them is that many factories in Wuhan (epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak) have resumed operations. They have stated that the situation is coming under control,” said Koshia, adding that anyone taking advantage of the situation and exploiting consumers by artificially increasing prices would be punished.

“People are trying to spread such rumours and start stocking up the drugs. This will result in reduced availability and push up the prices. There are a few people in the market who have started hiking the prices of certain drugs to take advantage of the situation. The government is keeping a watch and will take action,” he added.

In fact, a bilateral government-level meeting was scheduled to take place between the health officials of Gujarat Government and the authorities in Beijing last week. But it got rescheduled due to travel restrictions in the aftermath of the virus outbreak.

Recently, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman too reviewed the evolving situation. On whether Chinese shipments to the pharma industry have got delayed, she said, “There are no concerns about price rise so far due to coronavirus. And there were no reports of a shortage of medicines in the country.-The Hindu Businessline

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