COVID-19: Health Ministry seeks ban on export of anti-TB drugs

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Published: April 21, 2020 11:14 PM

Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan requested an empowered group of government officials to direct the department of pharmaceuticals for issuing necessary directions for prohibiting export of anti-TB medicines.

Delay in production and receipt of supply may cause acute shortage of these drugs. (Thinkstock/File)

The Union Health Ministry has sought a ban on the export of anti-tuberculosis drugs over concerns that the lockdown due to COVID-19 has affected the production of such medicines. Delay in production and receipt of supply may cause acute shortage of these drugs, Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan said as she requested an empowered group of government officials to direct the department of pharmaceuticals under the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers and commerce ministry for issuing necessary directions for prohibiting export of anti-TB medicines.

In a letter to Drinking Water and Sanitation Secretary Parameswaran Iyer, who is also the chairman of the empowered group for facilitating supply chain and logistics management, she said, “In view of the emergency measures undertaken, the availability of limited number of manpower and material to the pharmaceutical industry, the production capacity of the leading anti-TB drug manufacturers of India has been affected.”

Such a situation will worsen the treatment of TB patients within the country, she added. Sudan said suppliers have communicated that anti-TB drug supplies will be delayed because “force majeure” due to COVID-19 response activities, limited material (API), for production, limited manpower (because of restrictions) and limited transportation facilities.

The leading anti-TB drugs manufacturers at present having contract agreement with National Tuberculosis Elimination Program (NTEP) are Macleods and Lupin. Major factories for these drugs are in Bharuch and Ankleshwar in Gujarat, Baddi in Himachal Pradesh and Daman and Diu.

Under these circumstances, needless to emphasise that the situation calls for extraordinary measures to ensure that TB patients of the country simultaneously don’t face any challenges in accessing either diagnosis or the treatment of the tuberculosis across the country under the NTEP, Sudan said.

“Therefore it is requested the Empowered Group may issue directions to Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Department of Commerce for their intervention in this regard and also issue direction for prohibiting export of anti-TB medicines while considering mandatorily the need of the country as overriding priority to ensure smooth supply of these drugs,” she said in the letter.

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