February 13, 2020

Coronavirus crisis’ latest victim could be India’s pharmaceutical industry

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  • India is heavily reliant on China for imports of raw materials and active ingredients used in making an array of drugs and medicines
  • But restrictions on travel, trade and production in the wake of the outbreak have throttled supply, sending shock waves through the industry

As China works to control the spread of the new coronavirus that has claimed more than 1,300 lives so far, there has been another, less likely victim of the outbreak: India’s pharmaceutical industry.

India imports the bulk – nearly 70 per cent – of its raw materials and active ingredients for drug production from China, about US$4.5 billion worth each year. These active pharmaceutical ingredients and key starting materials, as they are known in the industry, are used in everything from vitamin tablets to hormone injections, blood pressure medication and life-saving antibiotics.

Since 2015, pharmaceutical ingredients have been among India’s top 10 imports from China and a sizeable chunk of these were used in the US$19.1 billion worth of pharmaceutical products that the latter exported last financial year, according to official figures.

Even United States drug makers are reliant on China for raw materials, with the vast majority of key ingredients for medicines that many Americans rely on being manufactured there.

As a lot of the raw ingredients that India imports come from producers in and around Zhejiang province, more than 600km away from the outbreak’s epicentre in Wuhan, there had been some initial confidence that the unfolding crisis would not affect supply.

But when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency on January 31, it led to protocols over travel and supplies being tightened globally, and the movement of materials and people becoming more restricted.

(Source: South China Morning Post)

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