By Neha Dasgupta and Ludwig Burger
NEW DELHI/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – India’s top pharmaceuticals export group said a government curb on some drug exports as the coronavirus outbreak spreads has caused panic in Europe and will “severely impact” businesses in the sector.
The world’s main supplier of generic drugs has restricted the export of 26 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and the medicines made from them, in a move seen as aimed at tackling possible domestic shortages of medicine during the outbreak.
On Wednesday, Dinesh Dua, chairman of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), told Reuters that some of the restricted APIs and medicines were widely exported to Europe and the United States.
“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.
Indian drugmakers rely on China, the source of the virus outbreak, for almost 70% of the APIs for their medicines.
The list of restricted medicines accounts for 10% of India’s total pharmaceutical exports and includes several antibiotics, as well as Paracetamol, a common pain reliever also sold as acetaminophen.
“We are very alarmed that other countries would pursue other, more narrow strategies, which won’t solve the issue,” said Adrian van den Hoven, director general of the Medicines for Europe association of the region’s generic and biosimilar drugmakers.
He added that the restrictions did not seem to affect large export volumes to Europe and stockpiles would last a few months.
The European Union’s drugs regulator, the European Medicines Agency, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The Food and Drug Administration in the United States, where Indian imports accounted for 24% of medicines in 2018, said on Tuesday it was working to determine how the restrictions will affect U.S. supplies.
The restrictions could hurt India’s image as a pharmacy to the world and would effect shipments already lined up for export at warehouses and ports, Pharmexcil argued in a letter to India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), which was seen by Reuters.
The DGFT did not respond to a request for comment.
“The exporters not only suffer the monetary losses but also their credibility and reputation in the international market is at stake,” said the letter, which urged the government to allow exports of drugs manufactured before the restrictions kicked in.
Dua told Reuters there were $10 million worth of drugs currently at Indian ports or close to being readied for export.
Pharmexcil counts dozens of pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer Ltd <PFIZ.NS> and Abbott <ABOT.NS> among its members. The council falls under the federal commerce ministry.
Novartis AG <NOVN.S> said on Wednesday it would adapt measures as the Indian export situation evolves, although it does not currently anticipate supply chain disruption.
India – which has so far confirmed 28 cases of the coronavirus, including 16 Italians – has urged calm and said there were enough stocks to manufacture formulations for two to three months.
(Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Aditya Kalra, Kim Coghill, Kirsten Donovan)