Date: 21-Feb-2020

Pharma Cos Don’t See Supply Shortage, Oppose Exports Ban

Glaxosmithkline India (GSK), one of the largest manufacturers of branded paracetamol in India, said it does not anticipate any supply shortages “at the moment” due to the Covid-19 outbreak in China. There has been some panic over shortage of essential medicines in India and across the world. GSK India manufacturers Crocin. “We don’t foresee any shortage — at least till May,” A Vaidheesh, head, India, GSK, told ET. GSK’s paracetamol business is estimated around 200 crore. On Monday, in an interview to ET, Vasanth Narasimhan, global head of Novartis, also said the company does not anticipate supply disruption. Dilip Shanghvi, managing director, Sun Pharma, also assured that India’s largest drugmaker has stocks. Lobby group Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) said its members have stocks of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for essential medicines. IPA secretary general Sudarshan Jain said the situation was under control, and that “there is no need for panic.” Jain said some smaller companies might see API shortage, which was leading to panic buying, hoarding and, subsequently, high prices.China supplies 70% of APIs to global drug companies and the current crisis has raised questions on whether the country will be ready to supply pharmaceutical products. However, Satyanarayana Chava of Laurus Labs, one of the largest API companies, told ET that the situation will be troubling if things do not settle by March-end, till when things were under control. According to him, suppliers are slowing down return to work and consignments are being shipped to China, but not to Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid-19. The Centre is keeping tabs on the situation and is also considering an exports ban, but most companies ET spoke with, were not in favour of such a ban without analysing data. “We can’t go for blanket bans. We need to check the data on possible drugs that might undergo shortage,” said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, founder, Biocon.