Some widely used drugs in short supply

Emran Hossain | Published: 00:20, May 10,2020


Some widely used medicines are already out of market or in short supply in Bangladesh as the coronavirus crisis hit their productions and supply chain, pharmaceutical industry owners and medicine sellers said.  

Medicine manufacturers in Bangladesh is largely dependent on imported raw materials, intermediaries and other associate products the imports of which have been disrupted by the global spread of the new coronavirus since February, they said.

As countries such as China and India, over the last two weeks, resumed limited scale of exports of pharmaceutical raw materials after a three-month-long lull, prices appeared to have increased manifold as are their shipment charges, they said.

‘A crisis is only natural when the import of several thousand molecules on which the existence of pharmaceutical industries depends remained suspended for months,’ SM Shafiuzzaman, secretary general of Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries, told New Age.

He said that some medicines would be in short supply or might disappear from the shelf if the crisis continued.

The widely used vitamin C supplement, marketed as Ceevit and other such brand  names are largely out of market, as the government routinely promoting vitamin intake in order to strengthen immunity to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Supplies of some other drugs used to treat respiratory illness, high blood pressure, cardiac illness, kidney diseases, and cold and fever are reportedly under stress, according to pharmaceutical representatives and medicine sellers.

‘Ceevit has been out of supply for more than a month,’ said Ripon Kumar, owner of Priya Medical, a medicine shop in Mirzapur, Tangail.

Supplies of other brands of the vitamin C supplement also became scarce, he said.

Drugs such as Osartil and Prosan, widely prescribed among heart, kidney and diabetes patients, are also in short supply, he said.

Ripon also reported that cough syrup such as Tusca and Ambrox and antihistamines such as Fenadin also became scarce.

‘Pharmaceutical representatives are blaming it on short supply of raw material crisis,’ he said.

Kumudini Pharma area manager in Mirzapur Ratan Kuma Sutradhar said that an abnormally increased high demand has stressed the supply of Painil used to treat pain and fever.

Ratan used to sell 30 boxes of the drug a month but now he would need 130 boxes and ‘now the company is unable to cope with the demand.’

General Pharmaceuticals managing director Momenul Haq said that a crisis was inevitable for drug producers could normally stock three-month worth of pharmaceutical raw materials.

The last time pharmaceutical company owners in the country imported raw materials were in December last year or early this year, he said.

China and India, the countries from where Bangladesh sources 80 per cent of its required raw materials, lately opened exports on limited scale while European sources are still inaccessible, he said.  

‘Pharmaceutical sector is plagued by crises,’ he said.

The price of per tonne of isopropyl alcohol, a widely used hand rub ingredient, jumped to $2,100 from $1,100, he said.

Per kilogram of azithromycin now sells at $130 though it used to sell at $90 before the pandemic hit, he said.

The shipment charge of per kilogram of raw materials from India increased to $8 from $2, he said.

‘If the situation does not change immediately many of us may be forced to stop producing drugs,’ said Momen.

Bangladesh’s Tk 22,000-crore worth drug industry is dominated by 25 companies.

Popular hand sanitiser marketed as Hexisol disappeared along with many other cleanliness and disinfectants such as liquid antiseptic Savlon and Dettol in less than a month after the first COVID-19 case had been detected in early March.

The drug administration allowed more than a dozen companies and distilleries to produce hand sanitisers but the crisis for a reliable brand persisted.

Drug Administration directorate general Major General Mahbubur Rahman could not be reached for comments.

DGDA DG Mahbubur Rahman however recently told journalists that the DGDA so far successfully tackled the situation with uninterrupted supply of medicines and that there was no possibility of a drug  crisis.

Incepta Pharmaceuticals chairman Abdul Muktadir admitted there were stresses on pharmaceutical industries but he was optimistic about the availability of all kinds of popular drugs.    

‘We have managed it well so far and hopefully things will start to look up,’ he said.

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