“We have asked our experts in the US about what do they think of the order,” said an official from the pharma industry aware of the development. “It is better to go through it line by line… It is an important market for us and we need to take care of it.”
The presidential order issued on August 6 called for federal agencies involved in the procurement of essential medicines, medical countermeasures and critical inputs to prioritise purchase of such items from domestic manufacturers to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign manufacturers. It also urged these departments and agencies to identify vulnerabilities in the country’s supply chains for these products.
India and China together supply more than 70% of finished drugs and active pharma ingredients to the US. Indian companies supply 40% of the generic drugs that are used in the USA.
“We are still in the process of studying this order,” said Sudarshan Jain, secretary general of Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, a lobby group of large Indian pharma companies.
Indian companies have manufacturing facilities in 15 different US states and have invested a total of $4.5 billion in the country, industry officials said.
“Every country is talking of creating their own supply chain; it is not practical,” said the industry official quoted first. “So, what we are saying is if there is going to be diversified supply chain, then India as one of the important strategic alliances of the US can work together (with the US) to ensure affordable supply of API (active pharmaceutical ingredients) and key starting materials to maintain continuity of supply chain.” The person said Indian drug makers demonstrated their ability to do this during the Covid-19 crisis, “and we will continue to do this”.
Indian companies such as Zydus Cadila and IPCA labs have supplied several million doses of critical medicines used for Covid-19 treatment, including hydroxychloroquine tablets, to the US in the last few months. This despite India restricting HCQ export to other parts of the world.
Jeff Francer, interim CEO of Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM), a lobby group of generic drug companies in the US, said it may not be viable to move generic production to the US as prices of such medicines are very low. Without addressing the undervaluation of generic and biosimilar medicines in the US with sustainable market supply plans, the country simply cannot secure the domestic market and supply chain with scale and sustainability.