Fifty pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, have shut down operations after the region was declared a containment zone, The Economic Times reported on Wednesday. Several other manufacturing units in the area, which is Asia’s largest pharmaceutical hub, have also significantly downsized operations, fuelling concerns about the impending shortage of medicines in the country.
Wockhardt, USV Pharma and Sun Pharmaceuticals are among the 50 drug manufacturers that halted operations on April 12, Navneet Marwaha, the state drug controller of Himachal Pradesh, told the newspaper. His deputy, Manish Kapoor, said that some facilities were still running operation, albeit at a lower capacity.
Among those which have been affected are Dr Reddy’s Lab, which is operating up to 15% of its capacity in two units and Abbott, which is running operations at 25% to 30% of its total production bandwidth, Kapoor said. Glenmark Pharma’s three units are operating at a mere 25% to 30% capacity, while Cadila Healthcare is operating at 35%. Three units of Unichem Laboratories are operating at 40% to 45% capacity.
The newspaper cited media reports as saying that the state government has given special permission for pharmaceutical manufacturers in the region to resume production. Officials are also hopeful of the situation improving in Himachal Pradesh, as the state has not reported any new coronavirus cases in recent days. However, unidentified officials of drug companies denied the reports and said the situation “was still bad”.
Dinesh Dua, chairperson of the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council, said the development could result in shortages of medicines in India in the month of May.
“Pharmaceutical units are not operating at more than 40%,” he said. “30% units are closed for various reasons.” Many drug manufacturers are small and medium enterprises, and making arrangements for lodging from outside Solan district, or from Haryana and Punjab is not feasible, he added.
With inter-state borders sealed amid a countrywide lockdown to flatten the Covid-19 transmission curve, these units cannot manage operations with local personnel, as all skilled employees have to come either from Panchkula or Pinjore in Haryana or Chandigarh and Mohali in Punjab, he explained.
Himachal Pradesh has reported 29 coronavirus cases with one death so far.
India has 19,984 coronavirus cases and 640 deaths, according to the health ministry’s Wednesday morning update. Of these confirmed cases, 15,474 people are being treated, 3,869 people have recovered, and one person has left the country.