Health

Centre Stock-piling Critical Drugs to Combat Another Possible Covid-19 Wave

The buffer stock includes anti-viral Remdesivir, key antibiotics Tocilizumab, and black fungus drug Amphotericin B, and devices such as oxygenators and pulse oximeters.

The Government has kickstarted an exercise to prepare a national stockpile of critical Covid-19 drugs to combat the issues of accessibility and affordability as it braces for another possible wave. Buffer stocks of 15-odd medicines including anti-viral Remdesivir, key antibiotics Tocilizumab, and black fungus drug Amphotericin B, and devices such as oxygenators and pulse oximeters will be maintained in the stockpile.

This could prevent the massive shortages of medical supplies which subsequently led to the black marketing of Covid-19 drugs witnessed during the brutal second wave in April-June this year. The lack of availability of these supplies at such a critical time had led to huge mark-ups in prices of certain drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab across the country, which had severely impacted the common man.

Taking a lesson from the same, the Centre has planned to first create a stock of 50 lakh vials or Remdesivir, which was the most prescribed and sought-after drug during the 2nd wave. An oxygen supply strategy has also been drawn up. For Intensive Care Unit (ICU) preparedness, 2.4 lakh medical beds and 20,000 ICU ones would be created with a special focus on pediatric care.

“We have recommended to the Centre to consider creating a stockpile of 25-30% of annual national demand and warehouse it in the four geographical zones. These should be particularly the ones that have limited domestic and international availability and need longer lead times” stated Rajiv Nath, forum coordinator at AiMeD, an umbrella association of domestic manufacturers of med devices.

This national stockpile would be funded from the Rs 23,123 crore package that was approved by the Centre in July for improving health infrastructure to fight Covid-19. Under the package, the Centre has provided Rs 15,000 crore, and states have contributed Rs 8,123 crore. The plan would be implemented jointly across 736 districts to improve medical infrastructure.

Strategic stockpiling of critical Covid drugs, oxygen, and other Covid requirements is critical based on our learning of Covid 2.0. Centre and State Governments are working on the same. We need to be prepared so that we are not caught off-guard this time around. Companies are working on their production cycle and inventory management so that there is a faster turnaround of critical drugs in case of an emergency. Manufacturing and supply chain agility has been important and will continue to be important in the unpredictable environment on account of Covid.

an Industry Expert told TOI.

The creation of a stockpile would not only help companies to plan and manage inventory but also strengthen supply chains and resolve glitches in the manufacturing of raw materials (active pharmaceutical ingredients), and finished formulations (drugs). Even as stocks are being procured, companies have been asked to maintain sufficient stocks of certain drugs where manufacturing time involves 15-20 days.

In December last year, once the Covid-19 caseload had started to reduce, companies had cut back on the production of these key Covid-19 drugs due to fewer requirements. This later costed the entire country when the 2nd wave of Covid-19 hit unexpectedly, leaving citizens as well as medical workers grappling for resources.

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