Stopping import of APIs, medical devices from China will lead to shortage of Covid-19 drugs

Dinesh Dua, Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), has flagged the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) about the issue asking the finance ministry to explain.

As a fallout after tensions increased between India and China, India’s imports from Beijing have been affected. It is all the more worrisome given the world is in the middle of a pandemic. Active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) or raw material for drugs as well as medical devices — both used for COVID 19 treatment — are held up at ports.

In an interview with CNN-News18, Dinesh Dua, Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), who flagged the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) saying the finance ministry must explain and also why we need to be ‘atmanirbhar’.

Active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) or raw material for drugs that India imports from China are held up at ports. Even critical devices specifically aimed at Covid-19 diagnosis are held up.

This is rather unfortunate. We were given to understand there is a slight delay in terms of clearances from ports, both Delhi and Mumbai international airports. We took it in our stride. We thought this was usual. We were patient. On June 22, we were told they have been told by the lower level of officials at customs that anything from China will not be cleared. This was a bolt from the blue.

The industry is growing at about 20%. Domestic pharmaceutical industry is dependent up to 90% on imported APIs. You have at stake $51 billion. If you want to stop consignments coming in from China where we are so dependent, you are disrupting the supply chain. This will lead to severe and acute shortages of the drug in the domestic market and then in 206 markets of the world as well. This has never happened. We are a pharmacy to the world. We gave HCQ to the USA during a pandemic, free of cost.

Why are we seeing delays in clearance of Chinese imports? Who is behind this?

I have official communication from my ministry, which is the Commerce ministry, saying they are taking this up directly with the Finance Ministry. CDSCO, which is a part of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, have written to us that the regulator has not stopped it. So the buck stops at customs. I have proof of my people, people in the industry being told to keep quiet or else queries will be raised, they can do what they like, nothing will happen. The industry is absolutely unaware of where the instructions are coming from.

What are the possible ramifications of the same during a pandemic?

I have said, costs will go up. This will lead to huge shortages. Increase in prices and there are two things in the world no one takes a chance with — food and medicine. I don’t know what is going to happen if this continues for a week or so. There will be very serious repercussions.

So this disruption is man-made? What do you expect the government to do in terms of resolving this matter?

The Ministry of Commerce as well as the Ministry of Health are solidly behind us. The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers are behind us. It is now up to the Finance Ministry to come back to us and tell us what is up. You can control footwear, oil, all non-essential commodities but not this. Why pharmaceuticals where you are not self-sufficient and cannot be self-sufficient in the next 3-4 years? – News18

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