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World’s main supplier of generic drugs could run out of ingredients

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told US senators on Tuesday the agency was working to determine how the restrictions would affect the US medical supply and the effect on essential medicines.

The FDA last week announced the first coronavirus-related drug shortage in the US but declined to name the drug in question. Hahn said on Tuesday that drug was in shortage because of a lack of materials needed to make the API.

An employee at a pharmaceutical plant in India monitors machinery compressing generic pills for HIV patients.

An employee at a pharmaceutical plant in India monitors machinery compressing generic pills for HIV patients.Credit:Bloomberg

Indian drug-makers rely on China, the source of the virus outbreak, for almost 70 per cent of the APIs for their medicines. Industry experts say they are likely to face shortages if the epidemic drags on.

“Export of specified APIs and formulations made from these APIs … is hereby ‘restricted’ with immediate effect and till further orders,” the Indian director-general of foreign trade said in a statement, without explaining the extent of the restrictions.

Dinesh Dua, chairman of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India, said: “Irrespective of the ban, some of these molecules may face shortages for the next couple of months.”

The export promotion council falls under the federal commerce ministry.

“If coronavirus is not contained, then in that case there could be acute shortages,” Dua said.

In a statement, the Indian federal government said state authorities had been asked to monitor the production and availability of APIs and formulations to prevent black marketing and hoarding.

American drug-makers have said they are monitoring their supply chains and Mylan NV warned last week there could be drug shortages. Eli Lilly and Co said on Tuesday it did not expect the coronavirus outbreak to result in shortages for any of its therapies, including insulin products.

Separately, the Indian government said on Tuesday it had detected “high viral load” in six people who had been in contact with a patient who contracted the virus in Delhi, the capital.

The patient in Delhi was being monitored and was stable, the government said. The six people have been kept in isolation and their samples are being sent to India’s National Institute of Virology for confirmation, the government said in a statement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to quell public fears. “There is no need to panic,” he tweeted.

“Had an extensive review regarding preparedness on the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Different ministries & states are working together, from screening people arriving in India to providing prompt medical attention,” he added.

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