Amid rising concerns over shortages of generic drugs in India due to coronavirus outbreak in China, pharma industry has assured government that there are enough drugs and medicines to deal with any contingency arising out of impact of deadly virus. Indian drug manufacturers are to a large extent dependent on China for sourcing their drug ingredients or the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).
In the fifth Task Force meeting on API, Indian pharmaceutical industry ensured that there will be no shortage of drugs, APIs and medicines in the coming days, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers said in a statement on Monday.
As per reports, Indian pharma companies procure nearly 70 per cent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients for their medicines from China. This is largely for drugs like antibiotics - crucial among them being penicillin G (and other products based on it such as amoxicillin and ampicillin), tetracycline - and for vitamins such as vitamin C and D. All of these are based on drug ingredients made using the fermentation-based process, an area where China has achieved global dominance.
Keeping in view the country's over dependence on import of APIs, the central government has constituted a Task Force on APIs under the chairmanship of Minister of State for Shipping and Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mansukh Mandaviya to formulate a road map for the enhanced production of generic drugs in India.
The fifth meeting of the Task Force was held on Monday. Some key issues that were discussed in the meeting included policy relaxations to small, medium and large API units, and simplification of the process for environment clearance for production and availability of medicines, the ministry said.
During the meeting, the challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry in obtaining environment clearance were also discussed. The representative of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) stated that steps are being taken to expedite environment clearances. The ministry also mentioned that it has recently modified the guidelines so that there is no need to obtain separate environment clearance, if the production of the pharma unit is increased by 50 per cent.
In the meeting, Mansukh Mandaviya took stock of the situation of availability of drugs and medicines.
Earlier today, Business Today reported that the government could soon ban around 12 essential medicines - mainly antibiotics, vitamins and hormones - to ensure that there is no shortage of essential drugs in wake of the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province in China. The government is mulling the ban as the Chinese government continues to impose a lockdown in Hubei as it is the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic.Also Read: Tackling coronavirus-like outbreak needs sustained govt investment: Novartis CEO
Currently, the Chinese government has extended the New Year holidays. They were to be from January 25 till February 3, but will now be till around mid-February. However, if these get further extended then, Indian drug manufacturers, mostly formulation plants, which use the drug ingredients and make the tablets and capsules that we consume, might get impacted.
By Chitranjan Kumar