Ample stock of drugs for two-three months: Govt on drug shortage

India has adequate stock of drugs for the next two months, Union Health Minister Dr

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan | PTI Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan | PTI

India has adequate stock of drugs for the next two months, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday. He said this in response to concerns over drug shortage due to continued lockdown in China in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

India is heavily dependent on China for API (active pharmaceutical ingredient)—industry estimates suggest upto 60-70 per cent—and if stocks are not replenished in the coming months, a shortage could arise. “The matter came up during a meeting of the group of ministers on Thursday, and the minister for chemicals and fertiliser (department of pharmaceuticals falls under this ministry) has assured us that there will be no shortage for two-three months. In case there’s a situation (of shortage) we have alternative plans, but I can not talk about them at this stage,” Vardhan said.

Speaking about the health ministry’s efforts to deal with the coronavirus situation in the country, Vardhan said extensive efforts had been made to trace people who might have come in contact with the three positive cases in Kerala before they were isolated. In case of the first case, 94 people had been contacted, 162 people who might have come in contact with the second case had been traced, and another 38 people had been traced in the third case.

States had been given guidelines on surveillance, sample collection, packaging and transportation, infection prevention and control, and clinical management, he said. “India was possibly the first country to issue a travel advisory on January 17, 2020, much before the WHO finally declared the outbreak as a public health emergency,” he added.

The travel advisory was also being updated according to the situation. Surveillance at Points of Entry (PoE) is on at 21 airports, 12 major ports, 65 minor ports and at 6 land crossings. “So far, at the airports, a cumulative of 2,51,447 persons (2,315 flights) have been screened, 3 suspected cases and 161 contacts have been identified. The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) is carrying out community-wise surveillance of passengers travelling from China, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and Japan. “In all, 15,991 persons are being followed up for a period of 28 days, of which 3,058 have completed 28 days of observation period and 497 suspect cases have been isolated,” he said.

The ICMR is providing the laboratory support with NIV, Pune as the nodal laboratory and 14 other network laboratories. “This can be expanded to include 50 laboratories, if the situation so demands,” he said. So far, 1,071 samples have been tested, out of which 1,068 were found negative and only three have tested positive in Kerala. In addition, clinical samples of the 654 evacuees at Manesar and ITBP camps have also been tested and all of them were found to be negative. All the three positive cases from Kerala are students from Wuhan, Hubei, China. The observation was started from January 28, 2020 and they were reported positive on February 3, 2020 by NIV, Pune. States have been asked to ensure adequate provisions for isolation facilities and critical care especially for ventilator support.

He said the COVID-19 is highly infectious. However, the redeeming feature is that the case fatality is about 2 per cent in mainland China and less that 0.2 per cent outside China. Many of the epidemiological parameters of this disease are not known, as yet.