Covid-19 drug shortage: How sudden spike in cases resulted in shortfall, consequent ban on Remdesivir exports

By: |
April 12, 2021 3:22 PM

Taking cognisance of the shortage, the Directorate of Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has released orders to prohibit the export of remdesivir.

The drug which was originally manufactured to treat the Ebola virus in the year 2014 has been used for other viral outbreaks including SARS and MERS.The drug which was originally manufactured to treat the Ebola virus in the year 2014 has been used for other viral outbreaks including SARS and MERS.

In addition to several states in the country reporting vaccine shortage, states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh Delhi, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh have also started reporting a shortage of antiviral drug remdesivir. Taking cognisance of the shortage, the Directorate of Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has released orders to prohibit the export of remdesivir. In addition to the drug, the export of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) used in the manufacture of remdesivir has also been banned, The Indian Express reported.

The drug which was originally manufactured to treat the Ebola virus in the year 2014 has been used for other viral outbreaks including SARS and MERS. During the Coronavirus outbreak last year authorities had approved the use of the drug to treat Covid-19 patients. The effectiveness of the remdesivir drug however has been found to be limited in preventing the severity of the disease only at the early stages of the infection with its impact being very limited at a later stage.

With the majority of the Remedesivir vials getting diverted to the state of Maharashtra which is battling the maximum load of Covid-19 cases, other states are reporting shortage of the drug. Food and Drug Inspector in the state of Madhya Pradesh Shobhit Kosta told the Indian Express that since 70 percent of Remdesivir drugs getting diverted to Maharashtra, only the remaining 30 percent quantity is being shipped to other states. Kosta further said that the state needs about 7000 vials a day whereas it is only being provided 1,500-2,000 vials.

The unmet demand is also on account of several drug makers scaling down production of the drug in the last few months due to a fall in the daily number of Coronavirus cases. The drop in the number of Coronavirus cases in the month of November-December had also led many pharma manufacturers to destroy their expired stocks. Kamla Lifesciences which supplied the drug to pharma company Cipla had stopped the production of the drug completely between January 31 and March 1.

Dr. DJ Zawar, who is the MD in Kamla Lifesciences told The Indian Express that the government had asked manufacturers to reduce the production as there were few Covid cases. Since early February the cases started increasing across the country giving a cue to drug manufacturers to ramp up their production. Since the whole cycle that begins from manufacturing the drug to its transportation to different suppliers spans for a period of about 20-25 days, the newly produced stocks of the drug is expected to reach hospitals in a week’s time.

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