Arushi Jain, Executive Director, StayHappi Pharmacy
Coronavirus eruption is hitting the pharmacy sector as prices of key essentials required in medicines are rising. Emerging prices have moved the government to take essential steps to hold the pharmacy sector from this crisis. Similarly, the prices of vitamins and penicillin have also increased tremendously.
A sudden rise in the prices of pharmaceutical ingredients leads to the panic buying of Chinese raw materials after the coronavirus lockdown. Such an uncertain scenario has lead to the hampering of Indian companies’ plans. The APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) used in antibiotics, vitamins and other essential medicines, are heavily sourced from China. These APIs are paracetamol, aspirin, azithromycin, amoxicillin, ofloxacin, metronidazole; vitamins such as B12, B1, B6, and E; female hormone progesterone; HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir; and blood pressure-controlling drug valsartan.
The government has been examining the impact of the shutdown in China on the pharmaceutical sector in India including possible shortages of molecules and planning measures that can be taken to keep the situation under control. Various government organizations have been instructed to ensure an adequate supply of APIs and check black-marketing or illegal hoarding. The organizations have also been asked to monitor the availability of APIs and drugs.
With reports of coronavirus cases being reported from many parts of India, people are rushing to medical stores to get their hands on either N95 or a simple surgical face mask, and sanitizers but they have been hamstrung by their massive shortage. According to a report by CNBC-TV18, prices of face masks have shot up 300 percent.
The Government has undertaken a vital step by capping the price of 200 ml sanitizer to Rs 100. Although, availability is a big obstacle for the masses. Similarly, the price of a 2 ply (surgical) mask has been capped at Rs 8 and that of 3 plies (surgical) masks at Rs 10 till June 30.
Earlier, the prices of masks, etc are higher as India does not manufacture these masks but only assembles it. Also, the 3 ply material is mainly imported from China. The shortage is largely due to supply disruptions in China coupled with a large amount of buying from the Middle East and China. As a long-term measure, to attain self-sufficiency in bulk drugs and reduce dependence on China, the government is planning ways to encourage domestic manufacturing of APIs by creating a suitable ecosystem in the country with a focus on fiscal and procedural support to pharma companies to kickstart production of intermediates The understandable and most effective business impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been a major disruption to supply chains globally. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has resulted in several of the vital conferences to be canceled, likely resulting in numerous missed partnership opportunities.
Although, the improvisation of the technology sector has empowered the telemedicine platform which has helped the physicians to diagnose, treat, and patients remotely. But in a country like India, we can’t say it is 100% successful.
We are still unclear about the full economic impact of this black swan event are still not clear. This pandemic is going to shower its impact on the healthcare sector also as we lack in so many resources. Medication shortages come with a considerable cost to pharmaceutical companies. It leads to loss of revenue, provider loyalty, and brand reputation pose significant and deleterious threats to the business. It must be noted that whenever there is a shortage of medication, the patient’s quality of life is at risk.