Pharmaceutical companies in India are at forefront to combat COVID-19. Despite the crisis significantly affecting the supply chain, the pharma industry is putting their best cards forward to ensure the manufacturing of essential medicines to fight coronavirus does not impede. In an endeavour to fight the pandemic, leading pharma players have joined hands to facilitate seamless production.

According to the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) – a lobby of top 25 market giants in India – the biggest pharma companies are functioning normally regardless of the pandemic. In fact, the “combined capacity utilisation” of the largest pharmaceutical companies is 60-70% pan-India. This is the highest than most other industries in India.

Almost all the leading drug companies like Alembic Pharma or Cadila Healthcare have their production facilities in Sikkim, where operations remain unaffected and are running at full capacity. The top pharmaceutical industry associations – the IPA, IDMA and OPPI – are conducting daily meetings to evaluate how they can address the challenges of COVID-19 and better serve the society at large.

Increased Production Capacity

 One of the most integral steps that all major pharmaceutical companies have taken to combat COVID-19 is to increase their production capacity regardless of the challenges they are facing with limited raw materials, lack of resources, poor supply chain, etc. For instance, the formulation plant of Alembic is currently functioning at more than 80% capacity, while its API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) unit is working at 60-70% capacity on average. They are also majorly focusing on the production of drugs that are critical and in high demand during COVID-19, such as azithromycin.

Another leading pharma company – Zydus, a top manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), has increased their capacity manifold to facilitate the formulation and API process. The World Health Organisation has validated HCQ as a potential drug to help relief the conditions of COVID-19. In fact, medical practitioners in India have been using the drug for the treatment of coronavirus patients and found positive results.

Even countries like the United States of America are importing HCQ from India. All this has resulted into a steep hike in demand for the drug. As such, Zydus has taken an important step towards almost doubling its capacity of HCQ production. The central government had procured over 100 million HCQ tablets while the states already have more than 60-70 million tablets together. These can help fight COVID-19 for over 1 crores patients in India.

To boost their production capacities, the firms are also coming together help each other in pooling resources. For instance, in core production zones such as Goa and Indore, pharma giants are pooling trucks or helping each other to present their cases to the regulators. At the same time, companies are taking stringent measures to ensure high levels of safety and hygiene, and prevent contamination.

Initiatives towards COVID-19 Vaccine Development

 When the entire world is looking forward to effective vaccines that can help prevent COVID-19, at least 7 pharmaceutical companies in India are in the race to develop a vaccine. Typically, vaccines take several years of testing and more time to manufacture at scale but to fight the pandemic at the earliest, scientists are trying to develop a vaccine within few months.

As such, domestic pharma companies like Zydus Cadila, Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech, Panacea Biotec, Biological E, Mynvax and Indian Immunologists are aggressively working to develop coronavirus vaccine in India. Bharat Biotech has already developed Covaxin and presently conducting its human clinical trials. Another vaccine major, Serum Institute of India, also plans to develop a coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2020.

They are also working on the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine, having entered into the partnership to manufacture and supply 1 billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine that is being developed by Oxford University. The vaccines will be available for India and other middle and low income countries. Similarly, Zydus Cadila is also looking forward to complete its clinical trials of ZyCoV-D in around seven months.

Bharat Biotech, in collaboration with the National Institute of Virology and the Indian Council of Medical Research, has developed the vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 which has already been approved Phase I and Phase II clinical trials.

Smooth Supply and Adequate Stock of Essential Medicines

Due to lockdowns and value chain disruptions, the supply of essential medicines has been significantly affected. However, the pharmaceutical companies are working in collaboration to minimise the disruptions and ensure the medicines reach the public in a fast and efficient manner.

At the same time, the government is playing an integral role to ensure export of pharma goods is done in a restricted way and that there is abundant stock of medicines in the country.

Conclusion

 The pharma companies in India are playing a pivotal role in fighting the COVID-19 battle. To extend them support, Lindstrom India provides workwear rental services to ensure all employees working in the pharma companies have high-quality, safe and hygienic workwear that helps control contamination and improve productivity. We also provide cleanroom services, ensuring the workwear is thoroughly disinfected and transported in a safe manner to prevent contamination.