Children wearing facial masks, as a precaution after Nepal confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country, attend a lecture at Matribhumi School in Thimi, Bhaktapur, Nepal
Children wearing facial masks, as a precaution after Nepal confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country, attend a lecture at Matribhumi School in Thimi, Bhaktapur, Nepal on Wednesday | ANI/Reuters
Text Size:

New Delhi: The supply of raw materials to produce top-selling antibiotics, anti-diabetic medicines and commonly used paracetamol could be hit in India if the deadly coronavirus spreads through China.

Indian drugmakers import around 70 per cent of their total bulk drugs from China. The bulk drugs, also known as the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), are the raw materials for the manufacture of drugs. For example, paracetamol is the API for Crocin.

In the 2018-19 fiscal, the government had informed the Lok Sabha that the country’s drugmakers imported bulk drugs and intermediates worth $2.4 billion from China.

“Several cities in China are locked. We expect our shipments to be delayed and the latest order dispatches will not take place on time. There could be a shortage of bulk drugs till normalcy is restored in China,” B.R. Sikri, president, Federation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs (FOPE), told ThePrint.

The FOPE is the lobby of big, medium and small pharma companies and represents top Indian drugmakers, including Mankind Pharma, Aurobindo Pharmaceuticals and Macleods Pharma. 

“The top products for which the supply could be constrained include antibiotics such as cephalosporins and penicillin G, commonly used paracetamol and anti-diabetic drug metformin apart from various other medicines,” Sikri added.


Also read: ‘It’s like house arrest’ — Indians in coronavirus-hit Wuhan desperate to return home

We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.

Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.

SUBSCRIBE NOW


Stocks may not last beyond February

In anticipation of China’s national leave for Lunar New Year (the Chinese New Year that fell on 25 January), the Indian firms kept themselves adequately stocked, which is likely to last through February only. 

“While so far there are no indications of any short supplies, we are monitoring the situation closely. In case the outbreak continues beyond February, it may cause concerns,” said Ashok Madan, executive director, Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA), a lobby representing over 1,000 pharmaceutical companies, including Sun Pharma, Cadila Healthcare, Alkem Pharma and Micro Labs.

Apart from the shortage of raw materials, the pharma industry also expects an increase in the prices of medicines by 15-20 per cent.

“Importers may start hoarding the products in India and as a result, there will be a hike in the prices,” Sikri said. 

‘China may also shut Zhejiang’

The majority of the production units for bulk drugs are situated in Zhejiang province in China, which is 600 km away from the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite being a distant city from Wuhan, Zhejiang recently reported a 46-year man infected with the virus. He was later cured.

“Considering the spread of the disease, China may also shut Zhejiang. Apart from humanitarian concerns, we are worried about the virus spreading in China due to business concerns as well,” said an official from a Mumbai-based pharma company, who doesn’t want to be named. 

“The situation must get better soon so that the Chinese government doesn’t shut the parts of the country (located) along the transit routes,” he added.

Drugmakers in the US also rattled

Not just Indian drugmakers, even those in the US are worried. 

In America, roughly 80 per cent of bulk drugs used by commercial sources to produce finished medicines come from China. 

The growing infection from the novel virus has raised concerns among the drugmakers about “the adequate production and supplies of active ingredients going forward, as well as the extent to which shipments can be made if transit hubs are out of commission”.

“The time to worry is now,” said Steven Lynn, a former director of the Food and Drug Administration Office of Pharmaceutical Quality, in a STAT report.

“I would be asking my supply chain folks what do we have coming from China, what’s our inventory, and if we don’t have enough, can we get as much as fast possible? And remember, this isn’t just a US problem. It’s a global problem if China starts shutting down its borders,” he said.

(A previous version of this report inadvertently said Zhejiang reported the first case of coronavirus. The report has been updated to correct the error.)


Also read: India’s top cotton trader halts China shipments amid coronavirus panic


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

Support Our Journalism

1 Comment Share Your Views

1 COMMENT

  1. Keeping this situation in view, Modiji’s BJP government in center should support the #Pharmacityproject in Telangana. #KTR, the production of raw material for such important drugs may be given importance.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here