Coronavirus outbreak: Revival of old pharma plants to make up for shortfall of life-saving drugs from China

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February 21, 2020 12:51 PM

More than 70 per cent of the pharmaceutical imports in the country consists of the Chinese imports and might affect the production of the essential life-saving drugs.

Indian pharmaceutical companies typically keep inventories of approximately 45 days of the bulk drug, required in formulation, according to the CII assessment. (Representative image)The novel coronavirus is taking worse proportions in China and has now started to throttle the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

Coronavirus outbreak: India plans to revive old pharma units to make up for the shortfall of life-saving drugs from China! The novel coronavirus is taking worse proportions in China and has now started to throttle the Indian pharmaceutical industry. The import of essential ingredients used in the manufacturing of drugs and antibiotics has taken a hit forcing the government to look for other solutions to make up for the shortfall. More than 70 per cent of the pharmaceutical imports in the country consists of the Chinese imports and might affect the production of the essential life-saving drugs. Proposal to revive the old drug manufacturing plants is being explored by the government in order to ensure the supply of the key ingredients for the medicines, as reported by the IE.

More than 7-8 plants which produced ingredients such as penicillin G, erythromycin, rifamycin, tetracycline, citric acid and vitamin B12, were shut down due to the availability of cheaper alternatives from China and the department of pharmaceuticals is trying to restart those plants, an industry executive was quoted as saying by the IE. A meeting in this regard was also convened by the government thinktank NITI Aayog to dwell upon the idea. The government had also constituted a committee headed by Joint Drug Controller Eswara Reddy, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) to keep a watch on the evolving situation in China.

The idea to resuscitate the old plants gained traction as starting a new plant would take double the time which will be required to restart the old units, said one of the government officials on the condition of anonymity. He further said that reviving old plants would also not be a quick fix as it may take up to a year taking into consideration the old machinery available at these plants.

Three decades ago, China was nowhere vis-a-vis the export of pharma products but steel-solid backing given by the government in the form of subsidies helped the industry provide drugs at 20-25 per cent lower cost to the Indian manufacturers, the official said. He further said that the government will have to incentivise the industry just like the Chinese government in order to make it competitive in the coming years.

However, the plans may not see the light of the day if normalcy returns to China in a couple of months and regular supply of drugs gets resumed which will make the government fall back upon the cheap Chinese imports, said an industry expert who did not wish to be named.

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