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Covid-19: Possible shortage of paracetamol and other common drugs as India limits export


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By Isabel Shaw
Reporter

05 Mar 2020

Some of the UK’s commonest drugs, including paracetamol, could be in short supply because India has limited exports due to coronavirus.

An export ban stated that 26 active pharmaceutical ingredients and drugs made from them will no longer be traded abroad. 

They include paracetamol, several antibiotics, such as tinidazole and erythromycin, the hormone progesterone, and Vitamin B12.

The ingredients and medicines filed account for 10% of all Indian pharmaceutical exports. Their restriction could lead to worldwide shortages.

There are also fears that the shortages could push up the prices of common drugs.

The ban comes after manufacturers in India – the world’s biggest supplier of generic drugs – struggled to obtain ingredients, which largely come from Chinese factories that have been closed down as China battled to contain the coronavirus. 

An analyst from the China Market Research Group, Shaun Rein, said: ‘Even drugs that aren’t produced in China get their base ingredients from China.

‘Globally, there could be a shortage if China and India both get hit.’ 

Oxford Economics’ lead economist Stephen Foreman told the BBC that the lack of available ingredients has started to influence pricing.

‘There are already signs that the reduction in supply to India has pushed up prices there considerably,’ he said.

Indian drugs make up 20% of the global generic drug exports, according to market data firm Statista.

Meanwhile, three medicines have been added to the list of medicines that cannot be exported from the UK. They are lopinavir + ritonavir, chloroquine phosphate and azathioprine.


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