PH preparing for possible drug shortage as global markets hit by COVID-19 outbreak

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 11)— The pharmaceutical industry is preparing for a worst-case scenario as fears of a global medicine shortage hound coronavirus-hit countries.

This comes after India, the world’s main supplier of generic drugs, recently announced restrictions on the export of dozens of common medicine amid the rapid spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Because our companies have different scenarios built into their operations, they have contingencies so that in case a supplier cannot come in, they have supplies from other parts of the world, other regions which will hopefully not also be affected by this virus.,” Teodoro Padilla, executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines, told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Wednesday.

The Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry earlier this month clamped down on the export of 26 medicinal products— including the widely-used pain reliever Paracetamol.

“Exports of specified APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) and formulations made from these APIs under the ITC HS Codes mentioned against each is hereby “restricted”, with immediate effect and till further orders,” an order from India’s Commerce Department dated March 3 read.

Padilla said markets that rely on stocks from India and China, where the COVID outbreak began and where India sources majority of its ingredients, may face drug supply constraints due to the global situation.

“Those who are dependent on a single source— whether it's China, whether it's India, will have some supply constraints coming up… . Many of the products made in India use active pharmaceutical ingredients coming from China, which is like the supplier of the world in many aspects,” the executive noted.

International markets, including the United States Food and Drug Administration, have been monitoring the pharmaceutical supply chain for possible shortage, with parts of China locked down due to the outbreak.

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PHAP said it has not received reports of potential supply backlog for now.

As of Wednesday, over 4,000 persons were killed by the mysterious disease, which has spread to 113 other countries outside of China. More than 119,000 persons have been found positive of coronavirus globally, 33 of them in the Philippines.

As of March 3, the WHO has estimated a mortality rate of around 3 percent for COVID-19. Around 80 percent of infected patients experience "mild" illness and eventually recover, it added.