One of the key reasons behind the current shortfall in supply is the scaling down or stoppage of production of the drug in January and February due to the low Covid-19 caseload since December 2020 and the resultant low demand, pharma industry sources said.
With the second wave of cases hitting Telangana now, the state government is looking to stock up on 2 lakh doses of the drug. But manufacturers have said they are unlikely to get the numbers immediately.
“Manufacturers can’t take the risk of being saddled with huge inventories as Remdesivir has a short shelf-life of six to eight months,” said a pharma industry source, confirming that there was low production. The other reason for the crunch is the rapid surge in cases which seems to be more widespread.
“In the first wave, the impact of Covid and demand for Remdesivir was restricted to only the metros and Tier-1 cities. But in this second wave, there is a surge in cases even in Tier-2, 3 and 4 cities and towns due to which the distribution network is struggling to keep pace with the demand and stocks of Remdesivir have been spread thin,” said a top official at one of the manufacturers.
“It is not a question of just shortage. The surge in the second wave has been so rapid that it has resulted in a mismatch in the production curve and the demand curve,” added an official with another pharma company.
However, pharma industry officials insisted that this is just a temporary situation and in the next week to 10 days about a couple of million doses of Remdesivir should hit the market.
“This (shortage) is a temporary phenomenon. In the next few days ample stocks of Remdesivir will be available. The industry and the government are working together to ensure maximum doses of Remdesivir are available,” said Mahesh Doshi, president, Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association.
“Everyone has ramped up production since mid-March. In the next 7-10 days the impact of this ramp up should be visible and 1-2 million doses should be available in the market,” added the official of a Remdesivir manufacturer.
Doshi added that the recent government move to ban exports of Remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients too will help ease the situation.
Remdesivir’s innovator, US-based Gilead Lifesciences, had inked non-exclusive licencing agreements with six Indian drug manufacturers – Zydus Cadila, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Hetero Drugs, Jubliant Life Sciences, Cipla Ltd and Biocon Group’s Syngene. The Indian facilities of US-based Mylan too manufacture the drug.
According to estimates, all these manufacturers put together have a capacity to make close to 4 million units of Remdesivir per month for domestic as well as exports to over 120 countries.