Paracetamol tablets

Rishard Khan

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India’s restriction on the export of certain drugs due to supply issues caused by the global novel coronavirus outbreak could affect Trinidad and Tobago, especially the public health sector. However, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram says the Ministry of Health had anticipated such an event and is set to meet with stakeholders this morning to discuss possible alternative supplies for the medication.

According to a report from the BBC, India’s restriction “comes as many drug ingredient makers in China remain shut or cut output. India’s drug makers rely on China for almost 70% of the active ingredients in their medicines, and industry experts have warned that they are likely to face shortages if the epidemic continues.”

India is the world’s biggest supplier of generic drugs but the country has restricted exports of 26 ingredients and the medicines made from them in light of their own supply shortages. Drugs affected include Paracetamol and various antibiotics.

Asked yesterday whether India’s decision posed any threat to T&T supply chain, Pharmacy Board president Andrew Rahaman told Guardian Media: “Particularly in the government sector. There is a bit of an over-reliance on pharmaceuticals from India. In the private sector, it won’t be much of a bother. We have quite a few things from India but there are many other options from other parts of the world. “

However, Parasram explained that the ministry routinely monitors global events for any threat in drug supply for such occurrences. As such, he said since the extent of the coronavirus was realised earlier this year they have been in touch with the agency which procures the medication on behalf of the ministry – the National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd (Nipdec).

“We have been discussing this issue actively with Nipdec for the better part of two months. So coming early January, thereabouts, we recognised there may be a possible failure of the Chinese market,” he said.

In light of India’s decision, the CMO said he would be meeting with Nipdec and suppliers today “to work out the logistics and get the suppliers to assist us in bringing in from alternative markets if needs be.”

The CMO was not able to indicate exactly how many and which medicines currently being used in the country would be affected by India’s decision because he could not recall the logistical particulars at the time. However, he explained that for the past two years the ministry had identified primary and secondary suppliers for their drugs and this should help them mitigate some of the effects of the restriction.

“That’s what the meeting is about, to actually physically go through all the items and see which ones are primarily and secondarily from those areas where we are having the shortages and then see if we can get alternative supplies. We’re then looking at the national stock and stock already in the RHAs (Regional Health Authorities) to see which ones are the critical items in terms of priority,” Parasram said.