COVID-19 impact on Indian pharma companies

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COVID-19 pandemic affecting industries across the globe. The coronavirus outbreak has started to hit India’s pharmaceutical sector by rising the  prices of key ingredients .Now the prices for vitamins and penicillin are double or triple the price.  Similarly  the cost of paracetamol has gone up. Another major impactt is that pharmaceutical companies faces disruptions due to extended factory closures in China. If the pandemic continues then stockpiles of pharmaceuticals, APIs and other chemicals may decrease, resulting in shortages. The government should take appropriate  measures  to keep the situation under control.

Rising price of drugs
India’s manufacturers rely heavily on imports of their APIs from China. As a result of the lockdowns and closures, slowed production of APIs resulted in less availability and higher costs for the materials required for generics production. As per the current data, cost of paracetamol has gone up from Rs 250-300 kg to 400-450 kg. SImilarly, the prices of vitamins and penicillin have also increased tremendously.

Lack of supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients or finished drug products from China
The pharmaceutical companies faces disruptions due to extended factory closures in China. China, where many factories have temporarily shuttered due to coronavirus fears, accounts for a majority of raw ingredients used to manufacture finished drugs. According to the latest data compiled by India’s drug regulatory authority, 57 APIs of crucial antibiotics, vitamins, and hormones or steroids could go out of stock in case of a prolonged lockdown in China.  The outbreak of COVID-19  cause potential disruptions to supply or shortages of critical medical products also. Supply chain disruptions could be truly serious for our access to drugs.

Inter State Transport Challenges:
Inter-state transport challenges is also an major issue. There is a lot of medicine stock that comes from Goa, Baddi and Sikkim. Due to the lockdown, it has become difficult to reach the retailers. The distributers are also  facing transportation issues for supplying medicines in other states.  the government eased rules as part of its latest set of efforts to supply goods and services during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. Government exempted private laboratories from the lockdown to ensure that movement of lab technicians and transportation of samples, along with opening of temporary collection centres, should not face any hurdles. To overcome Inter State Transport movement  , truck drivers will have to produce the electronic way bill issued by GST Network, or the invoice for easy passage

Measures that can be taken to keep the situation under control
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across countries, concern about the potential for disruption to the manufacture and distribution of pharmaceutical products has intensified. The government is recommending  measures and steps to keep the situation under control. The government is contemplating ways to encourage domestic manufacturing of APIs by creating a suitable ecosystem in the country. The FDA  is  working with the domestic manufacturer as to mitigate the shortage. FDA is trying to ensure that there is no shortage has been identified for products which cannot be replaced by others.

The government restricted the sale and distribution of hydroxychloroquine stating it as an essential drug to meet the requirements of any emergency arising due to COVID-19 pandemic. As Hydroxychloroquine is found to be effective against coronavirus in laboratory studies and in-vivo studies. Its use in prophylaxis is derived from the available evidence of benefit as treatment and supported by preclinical data.

The government has also restricted the export of diagnostic kits with immediate effect and ensure that the companies cannot increase the price of medical devices beyond what is permitted under any circumstances. This is done to ensure there is no price inflation, especially when the country is combating a pandemic.

The Government has undertaken vital step by fixing  the price of sanitizer and surgical masks .  Although, availability is a big obstacle for the masses.

Government is also planning on how to grow in the API sector in future.

- Dr. Shalini Sharma

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