The pharmaceutical companies have hiked the prices of several medications, including paracetamol, azithromycin and Vitamin B complex following the COVID-19 scare in China. However, chemists and druggists in the State said that the stock was sufficient for few months and only raw materials are unavailable due to factory closures in the neighbouring country.
The raw materials – known as active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) – for a large number of antibiotics like penicillin, azithromycin, doxycycline, amikacin, amoxicillin, ornidazole and dexamethasone sodium, etc. are supplied mostly from China. Due to factory closures there, pharma firms are finding it difficult to source raw materials and have thus increased the cost of paracetamol by about 40 per cent and azithromycin by 70 per cent.
“The prices of antibiotics and APIs have been hiked by the pharma companies by more than 50 per cent, as India sources a large amount of raw materials from China. After COVID-19 outbreak, the increased demand in other countries have also impacted the prices,” said Dr Sharmila Anand, pharmacologist with GE Healthcare.
However, the wholesalers and retailers said that they have not raised the price of any medications. “The impact of the rise in prices will only affect the profit margin of the pharmaceutical companies; wholesalers have not increased the prices of any medicines. The stock of the medicines is usually kept in advance for more than three months. Thus there is no question of shortage of these drugs,” said S Ramachandran, president, Tamil Nadu Chemists’ and Druggists’ Association.
The government hospital authorities, too, said that the hospital pharmacies were receiving regular procurement of drugs from the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC). P Umanath, director of Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation, said that the corporation has been supplying drugs on a regular basis and adequate stock of all the antibiotics were available.
The State Health department officials added that the Union Health ministry has taken stock of the current situation on the availability of the drugs supplied from China. For now, there is no shortage of the medicines, officials said.