The prolonged shutdown in China due to novel coronavirus outbreak may affect import of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) from the neighbouring country, fuelling fears that the drug manufacturing industry in India could be severely hit.
The Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) last week constituted a high-level panel to assess its impact of the outbreak of the deadly virus in China on the supply of APIs in India.
APIs are bulk drugs or raw materials used for manufacturing medicines. India produces drugs, including antibiotics, using APIs around 80 per cent of which are imported from China, mainly from Hubei province which is the epicentre of the outbreak. India also exports medicines.
According to official sources, Indian drugmakers have informed the high-level committee that they presently have stocks for the next two to three months.
There has been no supply from the neighbouring country for the last 20-25 days, mainly due to Chinese New Year holidays, sources said.
"If the current coronavirus outbreak situation in China persists, the import of APIs may be severely hit and India may face a shortage of drugs like antibiotics, steroids, anti-diabetics, hormones and vitamins," an official source said.
As the Hubei province is severely affected, the manufacturing of APIs in that region will obviously be hit, the source said.
"The high-level committee has examined the manufacturing activity by Chinese firm and have been informed by the Indian embassy in China that several manufacturers have resumed operations," the official source said.
The committee has submitted its preliminary report to the Department of Pharmeceuticals. However, the government is yet to take a decision on whether to ban export of drugs.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the issue was discussed at a meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers on Thursday and the Union Minister of State for Chemical and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya has informed them that they have enough stocks for the next two to three months and further arrangements will be made if the situation demands so.
China has reported 1,367 deaths and the total number of confirmed cases spiralled to 59,804 till Thursday due to the coronavirus outbreak amid concerns that the crisis is nowhere near slowing down contrary to official projections.