MUMBAI : The government has kickstarted an exercise to create a national stockpile of critical medicines for Covid-19 to tide over the challenges around affordability and accessibility as it prepares for a possible third wave.
To begin with, buffer stocks of 15-odd medicines, including anti-viral Remdesivir, key antibiotics Tocilizumab, and black fungus drug Amphotericin B will be maintained, after supplies are procured through the tendering process, sources told TOI.
This could prevent the massive shortages of critical drugs like Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, key antibiotics and ICU medication, witnessed during the brutal second wave in April-June this year. The stock-outs led to black marketing and huge mark-ups in prices of certain drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab across the country, which severely impacted the common man.
For instance, in the case of Remdesivir, the tenders were floated recently and supplies have been dispatched by companies. Initially, the plan is to create a stock of 50 lakh vials of remedesivir, sources added.
The national stockpile is expected to be funded from the Rs 23,123-crore package approved by the Centre in July for improving health infrastructure to fight Covid-19.
The Centre has also drawn up an oxygen supply strategy, and is focusing on ICU preparedness. Around 2.4 lakh medical beds and 20,000 ICU ones would be created with a special focus on paediatric care.
Under the new package, the Centre would provide Rs 15,000 crore, and states would contribute Rs 8,123 crore. The plan would be implemented jointly by them across 736 districts to improve medical infrastructure.
It is understood that certain states, including Gujarat, have also embarked on a similar exercise to shore up inventory of essential Covid-related drugs in apprehension of the third wave.
The creation of a stockpile will help companies to plan and manage inventory to strengthen supply chains and resolve glitches in 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 cases had reduced, companies had cut back on production of key drugs as there was less requirement. “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 had earlier told TOI.