Govt Plans Nat’l Stockpile Of Life-Saving Drugs

Mumbai : The government is in discussions with the pharma and medical devices industry to create a “national stockpile” of life-saving drugs and vital equipment to combat the third Covid wave. This could prevent the massive shortages of critical drugs like Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, key antibiotics, and devices like oxygenators and pulse oximeters, as witnessed during the brutal second wave with a huge daily case-load.

At present, the government is undertaking only a weekly review of the status of drugs’ availability, and is tracking manufacturing of the black fungus drug, Amphotericin B. For medical devices, a taskforce has been formed under the department of pharmaceuticals, which will shortlist critical items and seek advice from stakeholders, industry experts told TOI.

The 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).

“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,” Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance secretary general Sudarshan Jain told TOI.

Besides the two antivirals, antibiotics like Azithromycin and Doxycycline, and steroids including dexamethasone, there is need to stockpile critical medical aids like nasal cannulas, oxygen regulator and humidifiers, ICU beds and multi-parameter patient monitors.

“It’s good that some state governments are shoring up inventory of essential Covid-related medical devices in anticipation of a third wave. 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 which have limited domestic and international availability, and need longer lead times. Most countries like the US create these as part of disaster management,” stated Rajiv Nath, forum coordinator at AiMeD, an umbrella association of domestic manufacturers of med devices.

Experts believe that a third wave may hit the country over the next few months, fuelled by the emergence of the Delta-plus variant. The second wave during March-May saw an unprecedented increase in the daily case-load from just around 10,000 in February to nearly 4 lakh in May.

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