India bans export of 26 drugs over COVID-19 crisis
KATHMANDU, March 5: The availability of medicines in the domestic market will not be affected for at least the next five months as the country has adequate stocks, said government officials and private sector drugs manufacturers.
They were responding to the banning by India of the export of 26 medicines and related formulations that are used mainly for immediate cure against the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Citing a hike in demand for the medicines because of the fast-spreading coronavirus, the Indian government on Tuesday imposed restrictions on the export of finished pharmaceutical products including Paracetamol, Tinidazole, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Erythromycin salts.
Similarly, the southern neighbor has also banned the export of specified Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients and formulations made from these ingredients until further notice.
Government officials here, however, said that the export restriction by the southern neighbor would not much affect the supply of drugs in the domestic market at present. “The pharmaceuticals companies have stocks of raw materials sufficient for production for the next three months while the finished products that are already with the drugs outlets will be sufficient to meet domestic demand for two months,” Santosh KC, information officer at the Department of Drug Administration (DDA), told Republica.
KC said the department and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies in a meeting held on Wednesday also decided to initiate bilateral talks with India about lifting the ban on medicines exports to Nepal. “Nepal being a small market for Indian medicines, it would have little effect on India even if they allowed exports to the landlocked country to continue as before,” he said.
As per department records, there are 78 pharmaceutical companies operating in the country. Based on the capacity of these companies, the country is self-reliant in general medicines, according to a government report.
The country imports raw materials from India, China, the USA and a number of European countries, according to the manufacturers.
The government, however, would do well to develop a preparedness strategy should the coronavirus epidemic last longer than expected, said the officials and manufacturers. “As the severity of the outbreak is worsening, many shipping agents and airline companies have already curtailed their cargo services, which could impact the supply of the raw materials,” said Hari Bhakta Sharma, executive director of Deurali-Janta Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd.
Sharma also spoke of possible disruptions in supply and hoarding by panic buyers. “In this context, the government should join hands with the pharmaceuticals industry to avert shortages,” he said.
KC of DDA said the price of raw materials has already shot up in the domestic market because of the Indian ban on exports. “The Ministry of Health and Population is expected to soon step up to improve the supply of raw materials and the distribution of the finished products,” he said.