New Delhi: India has been receiving medical supplies from China even as efforts to manufacture some of it domestically are on during the countrywide lockdown imposed last week to combat the covid-19 pandemic.
Official sources said in the last five days, more than 60 cargo air services transported over 15 tonnes of essential medical supplies between India and China.
The supplies include reagents, enzymes, medical equipment, testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves and other accessories required for fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic, sources said.
The Indian pharma industry heavily relies on imports of bulk drugs (APIs and intermediates), with more than 50 per cent of API coming from China.
Imports from China have been on a steady rise over the years due to the low-cost advantage Chinese manufacturers have. The value addition in India is mainly through formulation, packaging and distribution.
However, the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan city of Hubei province, disrupted supplies of pharmaceutical ingredients from China, resulting in shortages.
The government in order to ramp up domestic production, completed a molecule-by-molecule mapping of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) imported from China, in February.
“Ever since, local manufacturers are being encouraged to produce APIs and we are ensuring that we don’t face shortages,” an official source said.
Incidentally, China’s API production which had declined hugely due to the coronavirus outbreak, is now quickly recovering. The bottleneck in the global supply chain for APIs is now shipping, particularly ocean freight.
China is focusing its production efforts on APIs that are in highest demand including chloroquine phosphate, which the FDA this week approved for use against COVID-19 based on anecdotal reports of its effectiveness, Xin Guobin, deputy minister of industry and information technology, told Chinese media on Tuesday.
One of those producers, Chongqing Kangle Pharmaceuticals, was able to export 4.9 tons of the API within five days, Xin said.