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Key Covid-19 drugs to be hit by customs checks at ports


MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Import consignments of crucial raw materials stuck at ports and airports will impact production of key Covid-19 drugs, Remdesivir and Favipiravir, as well as other life-saving medicines, leading to potential shortages across the country.
Besides, shipments of even critical medical devices such as infrared thermometers and pulse oximeters are also affected.
The delay in clearance of consignments of key chemicals used to produce advanced pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and formulations for lifesaving Covid-19 drugs, will impact the drugs’ production schedule, which is critical in the present scenario. Mylan, one of the six manufacturers of Remdesivir, a drug granted “emergency use” approval by US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of severely-ill Covid-19 patients, said the delay and hold up will impact the availability of drugs.
This is even as the health ministry and Pharmexcil have sought early clearance of consignments. The industry body sought an urgent intervention from the government to resolve the “man-made disruption”, which started a fortnight back. Faced with an “acute disruption” it has sought instructions to customs authorities for immediate clearance of the supplies at ports and airports, particularly Nhava Sheva port (Maharashtra) and Delhi Airport.
“We have been inundated with distress calls from a lot of our member companies that there has been an acute disruption in manufacturing of pharmaceutical products over the last three days,” Pharmexcil said in a letter to various government departments.
The delays at ports and airports due to examination of all imports from China by customs authorities will impact costs for domestic manufacturers, a company official told TOI, as China has issued a directive to tighten credit. Also, several companies enter into annual contracts for their large volume purchases in the past. Due to political uncertainty, Chinese companies now prefer to sell products on a consignment basis which works out to be more expensive for the buyer.
Critical raw material and bulk drugs are imported from China, with the country accounting for nearly 70% of API (active pharmaceutical imports), while in certain cases like antibiotics, the dependence is around 90%.
“The delay in clearance of consignments for manufacturing APIs and formulations for life-saving drugs meant for COVID-19 treatment is going to impact the healthcare delivery in these challenging times,” a company manufacturing Covid-19 drugs said.
“APIs import clearances are impacted and will be a concern if it continues for longer period,” Ashok Madan of Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA) said.
Pharmexcil chairman Dinesh Dua said that there will be disruption in supply as there is near-total dependence on China for key raw materials used in making antibiotics, cardiovascular, respiratory and diabetes medicines.
The congestion at ports particularly Nhava Sheva needs to be cleared quickly as rains will further lead to a huge pile up. Also, chemicals and pharma cargo will only be cleared after the perishables have been attended to.
The “scrutiny’’ is being attributed to the “intelligence’’ received around illegal imports of narcotics at Chennai port a few days back. Officials are seeking stricter compliance and more documentation from importers, which is not a normal routine procedure, a Chennai-based company said. Some cargo was cleared last week after a detailed investigation and scrutiny of documentation at Chennai, while the bigger containers of commodities and goods are still held up.
Customs officials across the country are conducting a detailed examination and rechecking all shipments from China, even though there was no official intimation on the exercise. As against this, earlier only random testing was carried out of the containers.



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