Thursday, May 06, 2021

China halting flights to India could hurt pharma supplies, say companies

Drugmakers in India are warning that a halt on some cargo flights from China could imperil an important link in the global pharmaceutical supply chain.

The U.S. relies heavily on India to stock its medicine cabinets, and any slowdown in output could leave pharmacies short of drugs used regularly by millions of Americans.

On April 26, China’s state-run Sichuan Airlines suspended cargo flights to India for 15 days amid an alarming second Covid-19 outbreak there. China supplies 60% to 70% of the raw materials used by India’s drugmakers, as well as ingredients for finished medicines sent to markets worldwide, according to Mahesh Doshi, national president for the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association.

If the flights remain on hold, the drug industry fears “cascading effects on its entire supply chain,” Doshi wrote in an April 29 letter to India’s external affairs minister. That could lead to domestic shortages of essential medicines and have a severe impact on exports, she said.

Sichuan Airlines didn’t respond to a request for comment made outside of normal business hours during a holiday in China.

Drugmakers are normally secretive about where medicines are produced. However, the U.S. Pharmacopeia, which helps the industry maintain quality controls, has started a project to pinpoint as much manufacturing as possible. Its Medicine Supply Map has identified where 77% of finished generic drugs are made, said spokeswoman Anne Bell.

06/05/21 Anna Edney/Bloomberg/Business Standard

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