As China cases surge, India must keep an eye on raw material supplies

Epidemiologist forecasts 10% of world population will be infected in next 90-days

Sohini DasSachin Mampatta Mumbai
As China cases surge, India must keep an eye on raw material supplies

4 min read Last Updated : Dec 21 2022 | 12:13 AM IST

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As the situation in China unfolds with hospitalisation and deaths rising in the neighbouring country, industry and experts say that India needs to keep a close watch on the situation not just epidemiologically, but also in terms of supply of drug raw materials from China.
Epidemiologically, the concern is that the Covid-19 outbreak in China might spawn new mutations of the virus. On Monday, US state department spokesman Ned Price expressed concerns that anytime the virus spreads in the wild, it has the potential to mutate and pose a threat to people across the globe.

US-based epidemiologist and health economist, Eric Feigl-Ding, tweeted that he estimates more than 60 per cent of China and 10 per cent of world’s population will likely be infected over the next 90 days, with deaths running into millions.
Senior virologists in India say that Sars-CoV-2 virus has been unpredictable to some extent, and so there is a need to keep a close watch. Virologist Jacob John said that while there was no cause for alarm, one needed to watch how the situation unfolds in China on a day-to-day basis. “Our population immunity level is high at the moment, and Omicron sub-variants are not deadly. But, it’s better to wear masks wherever possible,” John said.

China’s total cases are nearing two million since the start of the pandemic (chart 1), but daily cases are at odds with reports of rising cases. The seven-day moving average of daily cases in China has fallen from a high of 40,791 around the beginning of the month to 2,820 cases on Monday.
Lower vaccination rates have caused concern in China, leaving people more vulnerable to the virus. Total booster shots given number fewer than 60 per 100 people. India is lower at 15.7 boosters per 100 people. This is also lower than the global number of 33.3, and the 17.8 figure for countries in the same lower middle income country group as India.

Gagandeep Kang, microbiologist and professor at Christian Medical College, Vellore, agreed that now is not a good time for China. “A large part of that country's population will get infected, with older people at greater risk of severe disease. And a lot of older people in China who have not got boosters will likely get infected--some will get severe disease and die.”
Kang, however, also pointed out that at least 50 per cent of India was infected between December 2021 and February 2022, and deaths went up, but it was not like April 2021.

“It is winter and that is always a bad time for respiratory infections and stretching hospitals. So if hospital staff fall sick that means poorer care when good care for more numbers is most needed. So yes, China has a lot to deal with. But this is Omicron and not delta,” she adds.
Hospitals agree. Joy Chakraborty, COO of the 400-bed PD Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai says that they have noticed a rise in respiratory tract infections, with patients complaining of persistent cough. However, hospitalisation is not very high yet.

India’s Covid-19 tally is a silver lining. The country reported only 112 fresh cases on Tuesday with an active caseload of 3,490. This is after 106,139 samples were tested the previous day.

China crisis may spike raw material prices of APIs
While the cases in India may not spike immediately, one needs to keep a watch on the supply of raw materials, as the US and EU too are witnessing one of their worst flu seasons and demand for antibiotics globally is high.

Eric Ding has raised concerns about China diverting supplies. A senior industry insider told Business Standard, “US and EU have high demand for antibiotics now. India has sufficient inventory, and has nothing to worry about immediately. But price volatility is going to stay for now,” he added.
Ludhiana-based bulk drug and chemical manufacturer IOL Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, which has a one-third market share globally in painkiller drug ibuprofen, an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), saw its share price jump 5.74 per cent on Tuesday on the BSE.

Viranchi Shah, president, Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association, said that India has a reuirement of 2,500 tonnes a month of paracetamol. “Luckily, we are producing 7,000 tonnes per month of this key analgesic drug now. Also, three players have started making raw materials foe paracetamol. Therefore, as far as this drug is concerned, there is no reason to worry now,” Shah added.
  • India recorded 112 fresh cases and 3,490 active Covid19 cases
  • China witnessing a rapid rise in hospitalisations
  • Epidemiologists predict 60% of China and 10% of the world population will be infected in next 90-days
  • Demand for antibiotics high globally as US and EU experience strong flu season
  • Experts concerned that China may divert supplies from exports

Topics :CoronavirusChinaIndiaChina economypopulationcoronaCoronavirus TestsCoronavirus VaccineMedical collegesChina exports

First Published: Dec 20 2022 | 6:17 PM IST

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