Coronavirus: Certain Medicines Could Get Expensive

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SRINAGAR: With the United States of America reported its first death owing to Coronavirus, the death toll is inching away from 3000 deaths. So far a total of 86993 are infected by the virus. But, right now, almost 18 per cent of 41423 infected cases are critical as the majority of infected people, 42591 have gone home fully recovered. The crisis has spread to 64 countries, so far.

As the crisis is playing with the economies across the globe, India is expected to be hit in a crucial sector – pharmaceutical manufacturing. Since the key raw material supplies are facing a serious disruption since mid-January, some of the medicines of common use may either be short in supply or will witness high costs.

“The Indian pharma companies import more than 65 per cent APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) from China owing to cheap availability. There are 67 such ingredients that are sourced from places like Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus. These mainly include B12, B1, B6 and vitamin E ingredients and fermentation process-based APIs,” Chandigarh based newspaper The Tribune reported. “While the large units in Himachal usually manufacture APIs for captive use and also have an inventory for at least three months, it is the small manufacturers who have been hit hard. Their plight has worsened with the domestic market witnessing an exponential rise in the price of APIs by 30 to 40 per cent.”

Himachal Pradesh is a key player in the pharma sector. There are around 650 pharmaceutical units in the state’s industrial estates which cumulatively manufacture around Rs 40,000-crore products in a year.

The supply disruptions are expected to hit the small units as the major players have their in-house ancillaries for the APIs. Pharma sector asserts that hunting for an alternative source of APIs is a time-consuming process and the non-China imports are costly. One reason for massive appetite in the market for certain medicines is termed to be the outcome of panic buying.

The newspaper quoted BR Sikri, president, Federation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs, saying that alternative sources of supply have started working. In China, the manufacturing base of the particular items has started from places outside of Wuhan and now the pharma sector will prefer using sea route instead. “The situation is likely to improve as manufacturing activities have begun in places other than Wuhan and manufacturing the fermentation-based APIs will fall in place in the next four weeks,” Sikri has said.

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