India’s health ministry on Sunday banned the export of the antiviral drug Remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients after a recent surge in new Chinese coronavirus cases across India caused a “spike in demand” for the drug.
India recorded 152,879 new cases of the Chinese coronavirus on April 11. The surge marked the sixth record rise in new daily cases over the past seven days. The ban on Remdesivir exports will remain in place “till the situation improves,” India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement on April 11, adding that Indian manufacturers of Remdesivir have been asked to increase their production of the antiviral drug.
“All local manufacturers of Remdesivir have been advised to display on their website details of their stockists or distributors to facilitate access to the drug,” the Times of India reported on April 12.
Witnesses in the western Indian state of Gujarat described relatives of coronavirus patients forming a “kilometer-long queue to buy Remdesivir outside a big hospital” on April 11, according to Reuters.
“Some [Indian] state governments have in recent days raised concerns over hoarding and black marketing of Remdesivir, which in some instances is being sold at over 10 times the maximum retail price,” the news agency reported.
“Pharmacists and stockists might be doing black marketing and that needs to be checked,” Rajesh Tope, health minister of western India’s Maharashtra state, told reporters this week.
The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) issued a conditional recommendation in November 2020 against the use of Remdesivir in patients hospitalized with symptoms of the Chinese coronavirus.
“There is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes in these patients,” the statement read. Despite the W.H.O.’s recommendation, many countries, including India, have continued to use the antiviral drug to treat Chinese coronavirus patients.
Seven India-based companies have voluntarily licensed Remdesivir from its patent holder, the U.S. biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, to manufacture the drug “with an installed capacity of about 3.9 million units per month, for local use and exports to more than 100 countries,” according to Reuters.
Many have branded India the “pharmacy of the world” due to its massive production of generic drugs, a large percentage of which it exports internationally. India exported pharmaceuticals worth nearly $11 billion in the fiscal year 2020.
“In terms of volume, Indian drugs comprised of 20 percent of the global generic drug exports, out of which North America had the largest share,” according to Statista.