Two anti-virals — Remdesivir and Favipiravir — and Tocilizumab injections being used in the Covid-19 treatment have witnessed massive shortages (AFP)
MUMBAI: India is facing a shortage of certain antibiotics, key steroids, anti-fungal drugs, life-saving medicines, vitamins and even commonly used paracetamol, amid a severe second wave of Covid-19. This comes even as the drug industry is facing a huge escalation in raw material prices, packaging, transport and logistics costs.
Two anti-virals — Remdesivir and Favipiravir — and Tocilizumab injections being used in the Covid-19 treatment have witnessed massive shortages over the last few months.
Antibiotics such as Azithromycin and Doxycycline, steroids including dexamethasone, methylprednisolone and prednisolone, anti-fungal injection Liposomal Amphotericin B, and commonly used vitamin C and zinc medicines are in huge demand with Covid-19 infections surging across the country. The shortage is more acute in small towns, with rural areas being the worst-affected.
“Though we have been saddled with huge cost increases on account of raw materials, freight and transportation costs, companies are trying to keep pace with demand,” Ashok Madan, executive director at industry lobby group Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA) told TOI.
Amid rising cases of not just Covid-19, but complications such as mucormycosis or black fungus, several pharma companies, including Cipla and Bharat Serums, are scrambling to ramp up production.
Complex injectables such as Amphotericin B used in its treatment are out of stock in several cities, including Delhi and Mumbai. The “unprecedented” demand has outstripped supply multiple times and it would take at least 15-20 days for new stocks to hit the market as the product requires a lead manufacturing time.
“Active pharmaceutical ingredients of the injection are limited, and it involves a complex manufacturing process,” a manufacturer said.
Rakesh Bamzai, president, India, Emerging Asia & Access Markets at Viatris, said his company and Gilead are closely working with the government to accelerate supplies of AmBisome to help meet the needs in India. Viatris imports and distributes the drug from US firm, Gilead Sciences.
Industry watchers said in certain commonly used drugs such as paracetamol, or even Favipiravir and Remdesivir, shortages could be due to hoarding and panic buying.
“Demand has surged and we are supplying and operating at 100% this month,” a spokesperson from GSK Pharmaceuticals, which markets one of the top-selling paracetamol brands, Calpol, said.
The shortage has stretched in certain pockets to products that have several hundreds of brands in the market, like in the case of fever and pain-relief medicine paracetamol, with 400-odd brands, and others like Doxycycline, vitamin C and zinc.
Industry experts said ICU products like Heparin and Mannitol are in short supply too.
Over the last one month, the government has attempted to address the situation by monitoring the supply and urging the industry to ramp up production, but distress calls from patients continue on social media platforms.