To avoid depletion of its national inventories, India, the world's largest supplier of generic drugs, decided to restrict exports of some Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) used to manufacture medicines.
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The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) informed that this measure, which entered into force on Wednesday and will remain until further notice, does not completely prohibit the export of Indian medicines but does establish controls to guarantee the API supply to local markets.
Currently, the U.S. Iran, Italy, and China are among the most important buyers of Indian pharmaceutical products. In these countries, however, the short-run impact of the new trade restriction has not been assessed yet.
The DGFT decision limits exports of 26 APIs and medicines, among which are Paracetamol, a drug used to relieve pain and fever; Acyclovir, an antiviral drug, and the antibiotics Metronidazole, Neomycin, Tinidazole, Ornidazole, Chloramphenicol, Clindamycin, and Erythromycin.
The Indian government also restricted exports of progesterone and vitamins B1, B6, and B12.
The available reserves of these medicines reach for about three months of consumption in India, a country that has 1,250 million inhabitants and a pharmaceutical industry selling medicines for about US$19 billion annually.
Over the last three days, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased from 3 to 28 in India. According to what is known, 14 of these cases have travel history to Italy, a country in which 3,089 people are Covid-19 confirmed cases, 276 are recovered patients, and 107 deceased are registered.
On Wednesday, the Italian authorities decided to close all colleges and universities to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Currently, the most pressing actions are aimed at strengthening the most fragile parts of the Italian health system, which are located at the intensive care and resuscitation units.
"The coronavirus lethality is not very high in itself; however, it reflects the efficiency of the healthcare system," local outlet La Repubblica explained and recalled that the Italian health system, which lost about 40,000 beds over the last 15 years, has about 5,090 beds for intensive care patients.