India's restrictions on API exports only temporary, official says: report

An Indian official says India is working on policies that will allow it to continue its place as the generics supermarket to the West while it ensures India has the drugs it needs. (Eric Palmer)

India’s curb on the export of 26 APIs in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak has reverberated through the drug manufacturing industry, but the government insists it is a temporary measure as the government takes heed of its needs. 

Speaking at a conference Wednesday, Mansukh Mandaviya, minister of state for chemicals and fertilizer, said the measure was taken to make sure there are no shortages of medicine for India, the Times of India reports. He said the policy should be short-lived while a task force he heads makes plans for India to reduce its dependence on APIs from China. 

“It is not a permanent measure and is being reviewed on a daily basis,” Mandaviya said. “It has been done to ensure that there is no shortage of medicines in the country regarding coronavirus.” 

He said India wants to sustain its international exports of drugs and is coming out with policies it believes will help, the newspaper reports.  

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India this week stopped exports of the 26 APIs and drugs that range from paracetamol––the ingredient in Tylenol––to antivirals like acyclovir for treating shingles and antibiotic neomycin. 

India supplies about 40% of generics to the U.S. The FDA is reviewing the situation. Citing experts, The Globe and Mail reports India’s action is most likely to affect countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America first. 

That hasn’t stopped some in Europe from pushing the panic button, Dinesh Dua, chairman of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), told Reuters. He said some of the restricted APIs and medicines were widely used in the U.S. and Europe. 

“I am getting a huge number of calls from Europe because it is very sizeably dependent on Indian formulations and we control almost 26% of the European formulations in the generic space. So they are panicking,” Dua said.

However,  Adrian van den Hoven, director general of Medicines for Europe, an association of EU generic and biosimilar drugmakers, told Reuters EU drugmakers have enough supplies to last for several months and that India’s restrictions were unlikely to affect large volumes to Europe.