No shortage of key medicines, masks: MoS Mansukh Mandaviya

NEW DELHI: India has adequate stocks of two key drugs recommended for Covid 19 patients and capacity to manufacture sufficient masks to meet the challenge, Mansukh Mandaviya, union minister of state for chemicals and fertilizers, told ET.

The government has prepared a comprehensive package to make India self-sufficient in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, he added. The Department of pharmaceuticals fall under the ministry. The two-time Rajya Sabha MP is also part of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) for COVID-19.

“India has 2.8 crore units of immunity-building drugs lopinavir and ritonavir that are otherwise given to AIDS patients,” he told ET on Tuesday, shortly before the 21-day lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Modi. The combination of lopinavir and ritonavir is among the four drugs deemed the most promising against Covid 19 by the World Health Organisation. Last week, India recommended the formulation for Covid 19 patients in the high-risk group—people above the age of 60 with existing medical conditions.

“We are the no. 1 producer of anti-malarial drug Hydrochloroquine that the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) recently said could be given to healthcare workers handling Corona patients or suspects. There is no need for any panic for any medicine,” he added. Director General for Foreign trade (DGFT) — an arm of ministry of commerce – has banned the export of Hydrochloroquine to ensure sufficient availability in the domestic market.

The health ministry has issued a directive saying the anti-malarial drug should not be taken without a prescription.

Countering arguments that there is dearth of masks in the country, the minister said India has 114 mask production units that together have daily capacity to manufacture 1.5 crore masks. “Manufacturing is going on at full scale. The health ministry is procuring them and build sufficient stock,” Mandaviya added.

The government has announced four schemes with a total outlay of Rs 13,760 crore to boost the domestic production of bulk drugs and medical devices in the country. “We have identified 53 critical APIs (active pharma ingredients) that go into the making of anti-diabetic, anti-cancer drugs, and other critical illnesses, for which we are dependent on imports. As of today, India imports 60-65% of APIs. We will now give incentives for local manufacturing that will go a long way in making India self-sufficient,” he added.

“Similarly, India imports 85% of medical devices, including ventilators, pace-makers and scanners. Up to Rs 100 crore will be given for creation of medical device parks in the country.” Without going into further details, the minister, who is a trained veterinary doctor, said India has a sufficient number of ventilators to handle Covid patients.

The minister, who also holds the independent charge of the ministry of shipping, added that necessary steps were taken well in time to check the spread of Coronavirus via the sea route. “Since 95% cargo lands by sea route, thermal scanning has been made mandatory at all ports for all crew (since January), no foreign cruise is being allowed to touch Indian ports, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has been made mandatory for captains who go for pilotage, no foreign crew is being allowed to deboard on Indian shores and a Standard Operating Procedure has been set for disposal of bio-medical wastes such as masks.”

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