Covid-19 battle: Restrictions on drug export may be lifted

Mumbai: The government is likely to lift export restrictions on certain antibiotics and anti-diarrheal drugs as China’s Hubei province, a major hub for bulk drugs production which was under weeks of lockdown following the Covid-19 virus outbreak, is slowly getting back to normal.

The country, which depends hugely on China for bulk drugs, had in February restricted exports because of the pandemic.

Out of 13 drugs whose exports were restricted, the government is likely to lift the ban on five including paracetamol, tinidazole, metronidazole, ornidazole, and azithromycin, people in the know of the matter said.

The government is thinking of removing the restrictions following the recommendations of an empowered group headed by National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority chairperson Shubha Singh.

The Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and formulations put under export restrictions included antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, neomycin, metronidazole, Vitamins B1, B12, B6 and the hormone progesterone, among others.

“Keeping in view that India has enough stock, now that the supply has started from Hubei, government is contemplating reversing its decision from five such drugs,” a person aware of the matter told ET.

India imports bulk drugs from China to manufacture antibiotics and then exports finished products to other nations.

Bulk drugs or APIs needed to manufacture antibiotics like metronidazole, chloramphenicol and azithromycin, apart from Vitamin B6, are imported from Hubei province, whose capital Wuhan was the epicentre of the outbreak.

Hubei is also rich in minerals and India also imports borax, copper, gypsum, rock salt, coal, magnesium from the province.

China’s decision to quarantine more than 45 million people stopped the import of the key raw materials.

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