India’s production of paracetamol & antibiotics could be hit: Coronavirus crisis

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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.

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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. 

Also read: Ready to deal with Chinese virus: Hospitals