Coronavirus outbreak: Let us make imported pharma ingredients locally

Updated: Mar 20, 2020, 08:01 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

With people worrying about shortage of medicine, pharma industry seeks govt permission to make own active pharmaceutical ingredient (API)

Authorities say citizens have been buying medicines in bulk creating a shortage. Pic/ Satej Shinde
Authorities say citizens have been buying medicines in bulk creating a shortage. Pic/ Satej Shinde

With speculations rife that the country may face medicine shortage in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak, worried people are thronging pharmacies to stock up, particularly diabetes and hypertension drugs in addition to others. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has, therefore, requested the government to locally produce the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) which is mostly imported. It wants approvals for new investments fast-tracked and proposed that blanket environment permission be provided to manufacture any API on submission of self-certification to comply with pollution load requirement.

CII said in a statement on Thursday that the COVID-19 outbreak could lead to a significant shortage of supply in the medical technology sector, especially for critical medicines and medical devices such as thermometers, nebulizers, glucometers, etc. "The medical devices market too is heavily import-dependent, at around 70-80 per cent, with imaging equipment (CT & MRI scanners), cardiac stents, orthopaedic implants, glucometers, and critical care equipment cornering a large share. Many raw materials and components are imported from China," said a statement released by CII media head, Mohan Gawde, on Thursday.

Pharmacies crowded

mid-day found pharmacies across the city crowded with people stocking up over a month's medicines. "I'm buying my wife's diabetes medicine for two months because I read that diabetic patients are vulnerable to Coronavirus infection. I also fit the vulnerable category because I suffer from hypertension," said Ram Pawar from Sion East.

A pharmacist said he has been getting requests from his regular customers, with doctors' prescription, (he also has customers' data) for any requirement in the future.

Boost API

CII said that it has brought out action points for strengthening the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors for combating the Coronavirus crisis. The private sector can support the government in medical facilities, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

It also said that the current situation makes a compelling case for the Indian government to declare API as a strategic sector as most inputs are imported. The industry also suggests that firms for which capacity utilisation is 40 per cent may be permitted to produce API.

"While the real impact on the industry is likely to be visible only after April 2020, the local manufacturer's capacities will need to be bolstered, which would likely become reliable sources amidst global shortages," said CII.

70-80%
Percent of imports in medical devices market

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