India seeks list of essential drugs that Nepal needs

Kathmandu, March 5

Two days after the Indian government decided to impose a restriction on the export of 26 types of drugs raw materials, including life-saving medicines, the Indian government has sought a list of the essential drugs and other necessary drug materials it needs to supply to Nepal.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Ishwar Pokharel, who heads a high-level coordination committee formed by the government to counter the threats posed by the global epidemic of coronavirus, informed that India has communicated about its willingness to relax the restriction of the drugs needed for Nepal.

“We corresponded with the Indian government to provide the necessary raw materials and life-saving medicines yesterday,” said Pokharel, adding, the southern neighbour is positive on the supply of drugs to Nepal.

The Indian government has stated that its move follows disruption in the supply of raw materials from Hubei in China for the past two months. Hubei is a major supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used in several medical formulations.

India has banned the export of APIs that are used to produce paracetamol, tinidazole, metronidazole, acyclovir and vitamin B1, B6, B12, progesterone, chloramphenicol, erythromycin salts, neomycin, clindamycin salts and hormones, such as progesterone, among others which are essential during pregnancy and menstruation.

As the Indian government has also restricted the export of 26 APIs, the decision is certain to hit the Nepali market as most of the local pharmaceutical companies rely on India for the raw materials.

Yubaraj Khatiwada, minister for Finance and Communications and Information Technology, and who is also the spokesperson for the government, said the government is assessing the necessary stocks of drugs and APIs. “We need to replenish the stocks of life-saving drugs so that we do not face any shortage.”

Meanwhile, Narayan Prasad Dhakal, director general at the Department of Drug Administration (DDA) — the body responsible to manage the necessary drugs — said they have still not been able to assess the quantity of necessary drugs and APIs that are in stock.

“We have already held two rounds of discussions with representatives of the pharmaceutical companies but we still have not been able to get the exact details of stocks of various drugs,” he said.

Moreover, a meeting of the high-level committee led by Minister Pokharel that was held today has decided to establish quarantine posts along the six border checkpoints at the Indian border to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. Likewise, the meeting has also decided to reduce traffic on the border, control the supply of drugs from Nepal, and increase production and domestic supply of masks, sanitisers and drugs.

However, the government has claimed that the current stock of essential medicines will last three months and anyone found to be hoarding medicines or raising prices will face strict action.