KATHMANDU, April 12: Nepal can now import necessary drugs from India, with the southern neighbor lifting the ban on medicine that had been imposed for the past one month, following an increasing threat of COVID-19.
Citing a hike in demand for medicine because of the fast-spreading coronavirus, the Indian government on March 3, imposed restrictions on the export of 26 finished pharmaceutical products including Paracetamol, Tinidazole, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Erythromycin salts. Similarly, the southern neighbor had also banned the export of specified active pharmaceutical ingredients and formulations made from these ingredients.
According to the officials of Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, India has removed the ban on these medicine following the video conference among the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries on Wednesday. The Indian move came up after it became lenient on removing similar restrictions to the United States on its medicinal products including anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which is being tested as a possible treatment for patients with COVID-19. India lifted its restriction on export of medicine to the US last Saturday, according to the New York Times.
After India imposed restriction on its drug products, the government has been pleading the southern neighbor to lift the ban for the landlocked country. Similarly, the local importers have started making approaches to Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies for smooth supply of medicine.
Santosh KC, information officer at the Department of Drug Administration (DDA), told Republica that the new move of India will help ease domestic supply of the medicine that can be used as relievers on the ailment of the coronavirus.
There are 78 pharmaceutical companies operating in the country. Based on the capacity of these companies, the country is self-reliant in general medicine, according to the department. The country imports raw materials from India, China, USA and a number of European countries, according to the manufacturers.
Following the restrictions imposed by the Indian government last month, the local drugs manufacturers have been claiming that they could maintain necessary supply for the next five months even in the case of a prolonged nationwide lockdown. “An increase in import of ingredients and formulations will definitely help these companies to increase their supply,” said KC.
During the first 17 days of the lockdown that started on March 24, Nepal imported raw materials for medicine worth Rs 108.70 million and ready to use drugs worth Rs 569.70 million were also imported during the period, according to the Commerce Ministry.
Despite allowing the exports of the aforementioned drugs, India however is silent on restrictions on the export of diagnostic testing kits. India has also banned the export of ventilators, masks and other protective gears needed by both the patients and medical staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.