SA pharma on alert for COVID-19 disruption of supplies from Asia

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Pharmaceutical companies are closely monitoring the potential effect of the coronavirus on the supply of medicines and raw materials sourced from Asia, South Africa’s biggest trade association for drug manufacturers is quoted in a Business Day report as saying. Fears of potential medicine shortages have been heightened by India’s announcement last week that it plans to curtail exports of some common drugs due to growing concerns over a shortage of key ingredients sourced from China, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic.

China is the world’s biggest supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used to formulate medicines, while India is the world’s biggest exporter of generic medicines, including many of the HIV drugs used in South Africa’s national treatment programme. The list published by the Indian government did not include HIV drugs, but contains paracetamol, several antibiotics, the hormone progesterone, and several vitamins, including B12, which is used for treating anaemia.

“Most companies have implemented risk assessments of their product portfolios and are liaising with the department of health. Although supply chains are potentially vulnerable, a sufficient pipeline of medicines exists in the country at least until the end of May,” said Pharmaceutical Task Group chair Stavros Nicolaou. Industry was working with the national health department to manage these risks, he said. “Independently, Business Unity SA, which represents up to 90% of organised business, will be meeting health minister Zweli Mkhize shortly to establish organised business’s response to the virus, including the potential effect on critical supplies to the country,” said Nicolaou.

Full Business Day report

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