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Virus Hits Pharma Imports But India Says It Has Enough

China is seeking to restore normalcy in supplies to trading partners after the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak disrupted factory production in the world’s second largest economy, but it will be still some time before India can resume importing raw material for drugs and diagnostics from its main source.

Even so, drug manufacturers in India say they have enough stocks to last a couple of months. India sources about 70% of its raw material for drugs — Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) — from China.

“The stock situation currently will help us stay afloat till June at least. There is nothing to worry as of now,” said Sudarshan Jain, secretary general, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, an association that represents Indian drugmakers.

The department of pharmaceuticals formed an expert committee last month that is constantly monitoring the drugs and the diagnostics situation in the country, and to devise measures that can prevent any possible shortages. To ensure adequate domestic supplies, the government also restricted exports of certain anti-fever drugs, antibiotics, essential vitamins and hormones that have significant demand within the country.

The exports were restricted of medicines such as paracetamol, used to treat fever and pain; vitamins B6 and B12, progesterone, a hormone therapy; and amoxicillin, azithromycin and neomycin, which are antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections.

“We are comfortably placed as of now. There is no need to panic,” said an official in the central drugs control division, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to government data presented in Parliament in 2018, India imported APIs worth Rs 18,372.54 crore in 2016-17, of which about Rs 12,254.97 crore was sourced from China alone. The other countries from where India imports APIs include the Unites States, Italy, Germany, and Singapore, but their share is relatively small.

Jain said it will be some time before consumers start feeling any shortage. “The way supply chain pipeline functions there is always a buffer period for such untoward incidents. Consumers should be OK until at least July. In any case, the situation in China is improving and they have begun production. What will remain to be seen is how we get the material to us, whether it will be shipped or airlifted — the logistics will need to b worked out,” he said.

Using the experience as a lesson, the government is also focusing on working out a system that will encourage domestic manufacturers to produce the APIs.-Hindustan Times