Remdesivir Shortage in India

Remdesivir is an injectable anti-virus. It is injected to prevent replication of the virus. The Remdesivir was created in 2014. It was manufactured in large scale to treat Ebola. Later it was used to treat SARS and MERS. Recently, after the COVID-19 crisis, it has been repurposed for COVID-19 treatment.

What is the issue around Remdesivir in India?

The State Governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh have been complaining about shortage of Remdesivir. Following this, the Directorate of Foreign Trade operating under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued an order to prohibit the export of Remdesivir. Also, the export of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients used in the production of Remdesivir has been prohibited.

Why did the shortage occur?

The shortage of Remdesivir is increasing day by day mainly because of rising COVID-19 cases. It is also increasing due to manufacturing and supply issues. Madhya Pradesh complained that it has received only half of its requirement. Around 70% of the total production of Remdesivir in the country is diverted to Maharashtra.

How did the issue arise?

In December 2020, manufacturers were left with huge piles of Remdesivir. They expected increase in sales of the drug. However, the drop in COVID-19 cases in November and December 2020 reduced the demand of the drug. Some even destroyed expired stocks. Later the COVID-19 infections began rising exponentially after double mutant variety started spreading in the country. This began around February 2021. However, the manufacturing resumed only by the end of March 2021. This is mainly because Remdesivir requires twenty-five different raw materials in its production. The supply chain in India was not strong enough to collect all the raw materials in a short span of time.

The cycle from production to transportation of Remdesivir takes 20-25 days. Thus, the supply chain of the country must strengthened more to avoid similar crisis in the future.

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