Nepal’s essential drug supply to last three months

Kathmandu, March 4

India’s ban on the export of 26 types of active pharmaceutical ingredients will have a direct impact on the supply of essential drugs in Nepal, but the government has allayed fears of shortage, claiming that the current stock of essential medicines will last three months.

India imposed the ban yesterday to prevent shortage of essential drugs in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

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

India has banned 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, which are essential during pregnancy and menstruation.

Narayan Prasad Dhakal, director general at the Department of Drug Administration, said they had enough stock of medicines and their related APIs for up to three months.

A meeting held between DDA and pharmaceutical entrepreneurs today decided to take necessary measures to ensure regular supply of medicines and protective gear, such as masks and sanitisers.

“The pharmaceutical entrepreneurs have made a commitment to ensure regular supply of necessary medicines for up to three months based on their current stock,” said Dhakal. “If we do need to take further necessary measures, we have decided to collaborate accordingly,” he added.

Hari Bhakta Sharma, executive director of Deurali-Janta Pharmaceutical, one of the leading drug manufacturers, said there was no need to panic. “Domestic manufacturers have enough stock to ensure regular supply of medicines for three to four months,” he said.

“We are ready to cooperate with the government but it needs to first identify which drugs are of utmost necessity so that there is no supply interruption,” Sharma stated.

He added that the government needed to be prepared to take measures so that the global hike in prices of pharmaceutical raw materials and the strengthening of the US dollar did not affect the supply situation in the immediate future. “However, it will basically depend on how long it will take to contain coronavirus outbreak,” he added.

Sharma suggested that the government must announce emergency law measures in the health sector and act as per international practices.

Netra Prasad Subedi, director general at the Department of Commerce, Supply and Consumer Protection, said it would help the DDA and other governmental and private agencies ensure regular supply of necessary medicines and other goods.

He warned all those trying to take advantage of the situation, saying that the department was ready to take stringent action to foil any attempt at hoarding medicines and deliberately hiking their prices.

Meanwhile, the government has formed a high-level panel led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Ishwar Pokhrel to take necessary steps to cope with coronavirus outbreak.

The committee stated that the government would ensure that traders didn’t exploit the situation and increased prices of either APIs or medicine formulations.