Sanofi joins parade of drugmakers pledging no COVID-19 shortages

China said the U.S. might need to "wait in line" for drugs if supply runs short. India has restricted export of some meds and active ingredients. But drugmakers are saying they have contingency plans—and Paris-based Sanofi is one of them.

“We are working on the continuity of our supply through close collaboration with our suppliers throughout the world,” a Sanofi spokesperson said Monday, adding that the French drugmaker "does not anticipate shortages for patients resulting from the COVID-19 situation.”

While Sanofi zeroes in on its COVID-19 vaccine work and tests its rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara in patients hit by the virus, the company says its myriad manufacturing sites around the world will help keep its products flowing.

By relying upon ingredients from a variety of global sources, Sanofi has safeguarded against shortages from major suppliers in China, India and smaller countries in Asia, its official COVID-19 response states. For now, its entire global network is still operating, the company said.

That's not to say the company's not expanding supplies closer to home. Sanofi recently said it would build a huge API site in Europe by 2022, to turn out products worth about €1 billion in sales. The new operation will bring together its current API, commercial and clinical supply operations in Brindisi, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; Haverhill, UK; St Aubin les Eibeul and Vertolaye, France; and Újpest, Hungary.

That expansion comes as U.S. officials are working to encourage U.S. sourcing for drugs and medical supplies. Generic competition has led many American pharmaceuticals to close down manufacturing plants as they focus on high-margin drugs, but the FDA is now requesting that companies move production back to the U.S. to safeguard supplies.

The concerns are warranted. China churns out much of the world's API supply, and the FDA doesn't even know how much of the U.S. drug supply depends on that flow. The agency has confirmed that only 13% of U.S. facilities are licensed to produce APIs for American drugs, compared to China’s 28%. But beyond those numbers, they can’t say just how many APIs China is producing, or for whom.

Meanwhile, India curbed exports of its own APIs, antivirals, and some common OTC drugs, at least temporarily, as it weans itself off Chinese APIs, according to Mansukh Mandaviya, India's minister for chemicals and fertilizer. In Europe, Germany has stopped the export of masks and gloves.