Paracetamol, Azithromycin, Ivermectin: Essential Medicines Might Face Shortage If API Costs Continue to Rise

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As continuous surge in number of Covid-19 cases is being reported from across the country, people have resorted to panic buying and started hoarding basic medicines required for the treatment. The demand for basic medicines has grown multi-fold recently due to fear of its possible shortage in days to come.

While most manufacturers are working towards building up inventory for these essential drugs that could last for three to six months, the fact remains that they are comprising with their profit margins as rates of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) like paracetamol, ivermectin, doxycycline, azithromycin, maropenem 1 gm and others have increased up to 300 per cent.

The ingredients for ivermectin has seen a price surge from Rs 17,000 per kg in February to Rs 58,000 per kg today. APIs for azithromycin has increased by Rs 3,500 per kg as compared to its price in February and the price of active ingredients for doxycycline has doubled forcing manufacturers to shell out more Rs 6,000 per kg, currently.

Speaking on the same, Sales Head of a leading Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company revealed that while these drugs are under price control, the end consumer does not feel the pinch, but if ingredients cost continues to escalate in future then it will be unviable for drug manufacturers to make these medicines further which will lead to its leading to shortage.

“There is a price inflation with regards to many medicines that are prescribed to the home quarantine patients. This is not panic buying like we saw last year. It is actually procured by the needy patients. Medicines like azithromycin, Vitamin D3 or ivermectin are being sold ten times more as compared to what it was sold last year. So, this is a demand supply challenge as China has also stopped shipment of essential goods until yesterday. Most of the pharmaceutical companies are building up inventory for these basic medicines for three to six months. So, if this situation continues than there will be no problem till September,” said Dr Sudip Nagar, Sales Head of a Mumbai-based pharma company.

Another issue that has come to the fore recently is that an anti-viral drug Fabiflu is running out quickly from medical stores. Fabiflu is being described by doctors to those Covid-19 patients who suffer from mild and moderate symptoms. Essentially, Fabiflu is an important for initial line of treatment and restricts the virus multiplication in the body of Covid-19 patients.

“The demand for Fabiflu has increased. There is a problem of shortage. It takes two to four days to restock. So, patients usually wait for it,” said Santosh Verma, who runs a medical store in Mumbai’s Andheri.

Even Union Health Ministry on Thursday in its revised guidelines for home isolation of mild/asymptomatic Covid-19 patients, suggested, “If fever is not controlled with a maximum dose of tab. Paracetamol 650 mg four times a day, consult the treating doctor, who may consider advising other drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) (ex: tab. Naproxen 250 mg twice a day). "Tab. Ivermectin (200 mcg/kg once a day, to be taken on empty stomach) for 3 to 5 days should be considered.”

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