Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, the Government of India, requested the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to intervene and instruct the state authorities to allow seamless supplies of ancillary materials for finished pharma formulations and courier services in the country.
A letter written by the Secretary of DoP to the Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs, mentions that due to nationwide lockdown because of Coronavirus (Covid-19), apart from challenges in transportation and availability of workforce, there are two major issues; ancillary supplies and courier services, which may result in impacting the pharma production.
Ancillary supplies includes packaging material, excipients, which required for manufacturing tablets and capsules, utility consumables like briquettes/ gasses (required to run boilers) and spare parts are not able to operate/ supply as many times these items are not reconised by local authorities/ police force as an essential commodities and services.
Similarly, the operation of courier services is very important aspect in the pharma supply chain. Although in some metro cities the courier services have resumed, however it still remains badly affected in tier 1 and tier 2 cities. The despatches from carrying and forwarding (C&F) agents to stockists have become big challenge.
SV Veeramani, Chairman and Managing Director, Fourrts Laboratories said, “Due to Covid-19 lockdown in the country, pharma companies are finding difficulties in finding raw materials and packaging materials. Although, the production activities have started more or less in all units, but due to unavailability of packaging materials, we (pharma companies) will not be able to produce the finished products (medicines).”
He also pointed out that, “If these operational issues are not resolved timely, then it will lead to a medicine shortage in the country in a month’s time.”
Commenting on the letters, BR Sikri Chairman, FOPE said, ” During the lockdown period in the country because of Covid-19, the government is taking very proactive actions/measures ensuring the seamless supply of essential commodities/services in the country. The moment they receive any concern or query from the Industry, immediately they deliberate with themselves and discuss with various state government authorities and senior officials and try to resolve it. So we see, slowly or gradually all the ancillary units also becoming operational.”
M Madan Mohan Reddy, Director, Aurobindo Pharma, informs the measures been taken by the Aurobindo Pharma for ensuring the uninterrupted supply of raw materials and packaging materials, he said, “For all our ancillary suppliers, we have issued a letter by taking a permission from the local police authorities allowing them for moment of goods, considering them part of essential service providers category. Hence, we do not face any problem in this regard.”
However, he also cites his other concern over Nizamuddin case. He said that it is likely that in the future, we will see low attendance record of workforce happening, as local authorities are sealing the entire village/locality, wherever they record the Covid-19 positive cases, which will restrict the workforce coming to factories.
S R Shivshankar, CEO, ACG Films & Foils said, “Despite being listed under the Essentials category, the operations at our facility has been suffering largely due to the unavailability of technical maintenance and servicing staff. There are various equipment within a factory that needs regular technical support such as utility equipment like chillers and compressors. Travel restrictions imposed during the ongoing 21-day lockdown has made it difficult for these service professionals to provide us with the necessary support. We urge the government to look into the issue and enable us run our factories at full capacity thereby supporting the ongoing efforts of the global pharmaceutical industry.”
Selwyn Noronha, CEO, ACG Capsules, said, “Courier services for local and international destinations have been severely hit thereby leading to an adverse impact on the supply chain of pharmaceutical companies globally. While we at ACG, are doing everything we possibly can to keep up with the increased pharmaceutical demands, the delay in courier puts our efforts on the backfoot. Given the prevailing exigencies, air shipments need to be immediately scaled up.”
The letter significantly highlights that if the courier services in tier 1 and tier 2 cities not become operational soon then it will have a huge impact on the availability of medicines in those cities as well as in rural areas of the country.