The demand for the basic medicines such as paracetamol has grown multi-fold. While most manufacturers are working towards building up inventory for these essential drugs that could last for 3 to 6 months, the fact remains they are squeezing their profit margins as rates of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for paracetamol, ivermectin, doxycycline, azithromycin, meropenem 1 gm, etc., have increased up to 300 percent.
Ingredients for ivermectin that cost Rs 17,000 for a kg in February cost Rs 58,000 now. Active pharmaceutical ingredients for azithromycin have increased by Rs 3,500 per kg as compared to its price in February, and price for ingredients for doxycycline has doubled forcing manufacturers to shell out Rs 6,000 more per kg now.
These medicines are under price control and the end consumer doesn’t feel the pinch immediately. However, the sales head of a leading pharma company in Mumbai said if ingredients cost continues to escalate in this manner, then it will be unviable for drug manufacturers to make these drugs leading to shortage. “There is a price inflation with regards to many medicines that are prescribed to the home quarantine patients. This is not panic buying like we saw last year, it’s actually procured by needy patients, medicines like azithromycin, vitamin D3 or ivermectin are being sold ten times more as compared to what it was sold last year. So this is a demand supply challenge as China has also stopped shipment of essential goods,” said Dr Sudip Nagar, sales head of a leading pharmaceutical company in Mumbai. “Most of the pharma companies are building up inventory for these basic medicines for 3 to 6 months. So if this situation continues then there will be no problem till September. Having said that the impact of this is felt by pharma companies and we are aware of that,” he said.
Another issue that has come to light is the sudden demand of Fabiflu, an antiviral drug prescribed by doctors to those patients who suffer from mild and moderate symptoms. Fabiflu is fast flying off the shelf these days as every medical practitioner prescribes it to the patients who show symptoms of Covid infection. Essentially, it’s important for the initial line of treatment and restricts the virus multiplication in the body of mild and moderate patients.
While its shortage is inconsistent, it can last for a few days, according to local chemists in Mumbai. “There is a lot of demand for Fabiflu now. Earlier the supply was bad but now it is okay. It takes two to four days to restock. So patients in urgent need have to wait sometimes,” says Santosh Verma, who runs a drug store in Andheri.
The shelf life of Fabiflu earlier was 3 months that made it impossible for stockists and dealers to purchase in large quantities. The new batch of the medicine comes with 1 year of shelf life. So experts believe now the minor disruption in its supply will be resolved.