Covid-19: Forget healing touch, pharma gets it rough

Mumbai: The national lockdown has hit pharmaceutical companies hard as restrictions on movement of goods and people imposed by the police led to a disruption in their supply chain, potentially blunting India’s fight against Covid-19. Industry executives alleged that people engaged in delivery of this essential service were detained and harassed by the police.

The government had said that essential services and commodities, such as medicines, vegetables and milk, including their supply chains, would be exempted, but the executives said the message had not percolated down to the local cops. In any case, they said, the ban on public transport made it extremely difficult for labourers to reach manufacturing plants.

Ipca Laboratories, for instance, was supposed to deliver 500,000 blisters of hydroxychloroquine (HCQS) tablets to the central government by Tuesday, but it had to wait two days to get permission to airlift the tablets from Siliguri. HCQS was recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research for high-risk healthcare workers dealing with Covid-19 patients.

Though companies are sitting on raw material that can produce 100 million tablets, the lockdown is making production of the drug difficult, AK Jain, joint MD of Ipca Laboratories, told ET. Wallace Pharmaceuticals, another manufacturer of HCQS, faced a similar situation. “In the interest of millions of Indians, we are desperately trying to restart our plant, but we can’t because we are not allowed to open our manufacturing site. Our people can’t reach the site because of the lockdown,” said Vinay Pinto, managing director of Wallace Laboratories.

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The company had got calls from the government to supply the tablets but it was unable to do so because its manufacturing plant in Nalagarh in Himachal Pradesh was shut down by the local authorities.

All the ancillary goods required for medicine production are either getting stopped or the units producing them are not being allowed to function, said the executives. The printers that manufacture packaging for medicines are shut, the vehicles of suppliers of packaging materials for medicines are getting detained, trucks carrying coal for powering manufacturing sites of pharma companies are not being allowed to pass through and the shutdown of domestic flights has led to goods being stuck in different parts of the country, they said.


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