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Coronavirus India Update: China Stops Supplies, India Faces Antiretroviral Shortage | India News


NEW DELHI: Local drug manufacturers face disruptions in China’s supply for some active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used in the manufacture of drugs to treat coronavirus, industry executives said.

These drugs, antiretrovirals, are manufactured by around five major pharmaceutical companies in India and are supplied to other countries in addition to local use. While in the wake of the global coronavirus outbreak, demand for such drugs has increased, China is holding back supplies to meet its own demand.

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“Recently, some of the scheduled shipments have not arrived and informal communication indicates that China is withholding supplies for certain APIs and intermediates that are used particularly in coronavirus drugs,” a senior executive told TOI.

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Manufacturers said they currently have stocks to treat around a lakh of patients, but if the situation worsens it may be cause for concern as China is the only supplier of these APIs to India and there is no alternative source.

The combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, generally a second-line HIV drug, is being used in many countries to treat severe cases of coronavirus. India also used these drugs in the treatment of two Italian patients, a couple on a tour of India, who tested positive for Covid-19 in Jaipur.

Health Ministry officials said Thursday that the decision to administer a combination of HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, to an elderly Italian couple infected with coronavirus at a Jaipur hospital was “initially taken locally.” The hospital has been asked to inform the ministry of health and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) before administering the drug combination to patients with Covid-19 in the future.

The Italian couple is currently undergoing treatment at the SMS Hospital in Jaipur.

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The General Drug Controller of India (DCGI) had approved the “restricted” use of the drug combination before administering it to the elderly couple. The DCGI had given approval after ICMR had requested emergency approval to use the drugs for the treatment of Covid-19.

About 70% of HIV positive patients in India take first line drugs. The medicines are manufactured in India mainly for export purposes, mainly to African countries. However, if the spread of the coronavirus increases further, the drug may play a crucial role in the treatment of patients.

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