Friday, June 9, 2023

COVID resurgence rings worry bells for pharmaceuticals


By Abhijit Roy

After the recent surge of Covid cases in China the fear of disruption in the supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) looms in the pharmaceutical industries of India. It is feared that the pharmaceutical industry of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Haryana may have to face its shortage. And certainly when auxiliary materials used in medicines are imported from other countries becomes expensive, the heat of price-rise will have to be borne by the people already suffering from various diseases. Presently nearly 65 per cent of the critical raw material components of medicines are imported from China. Two yearlong pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine have already disrupted global supplies. Thus the skyrocketing price-rise of every commodity have disequilibrium the common man’s budget. In fact, an artificial supply crunch is created whenever a pandemic or other natural disaster occurs. Even now, many industrial units have started buying in bulk. Undoubtedly, this would lead to hoarding. People looking for opportunity in trouble were exposed in the second wave of Corona crisis. Then a few manufacturers and middlemen had seized the opportunity. Even the lifesaving injections were put on the market as counterfeit. It is worth mentioning that amidst the news of increasing infection in China, the prices of many items used in the manufacture of medicines have already increased by fifteen to twenty percent. But the deadliest effect of this fight will be on those patients who are suffering from various incurable diseases. They expect relief from the government and system. But hoarders and profiteers in the society, as soon as they get the opportunity of crisis, start the venture of shaving the patients. This is the reason why every year millions of people go to the quagmire of poverty due to expensive treatment in the country. With a view to tapping into this resource, in 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme of up to Rs 6,940 crore for the API sector as part of the Atmanirbharta initiative. However, as of March this year, the manufacturing of only 35 APIs, that are imported, had begun under this plan from 32 plants, including those in Himachal Pradesh. Notably, these 35 APIs are among the 53 for which India has 90 per cent dependence. India currently accounts for just 8% of the worldwide API market, given the huge pool of scientists, engineers and drug manufacturers, the potential for its expansion is massive.

(Author is a columnist. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])

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