India, the world's main supplier of generic drugs, on Tuesday restricted the export of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients and drugs made from them, including paracetamol, as concern mounted the coronavirus outbreak could turn into a pandemic.
Indian pharma companies get almost 70% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for their medicines from China.
Already, the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted businesses dependent on Chinese supplies and industry professionals say Indian generic drugmakers are likely to face supply shortages from China if the epidemic drags on.
"Export of specified APIs and formulations made from these APIs... is hereby 'restricted' with immediate effect and till further orders," the Director General of Foreign Trade said in a statement, without explaining the extent of the restrictions.
The list given by the government included 26 APIs and formulations, which amount to 10% of all exports.
"Irrespective of the ban (restrictions), some of these molecules may face shortages for the next couple of months," Dinesh Dua, chairman, Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (pharmexcil), told Reuters.
The council falls under the federal commerce ministry. "If coronavirus is not contained, then in that case there could be acute shortages," Dua said.
Separately, the government said on Tuesday it had detected "high viral load" in six people who had been in contact with a patient who contracted the coronavirus in the capital New Delhi.
The people have been kept in isolation and their samples are being sent to India's National Institute of Virology for confirmation, the government said in a statement.
On Monday, India reported three new cases of coronavirus, including an Italian national in the state of Rajasthan. The patient in New Delhi was being closely monitored but stable, the government said.
The Indian ministry of health did not immediately give further details on the cases when contacted by Reuters.