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Coronavirus: Drug shortage fears as India limits exports

It comes as the coronavirus outbreak has kept many Chinese drug ingredient manufacturers shut.

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There are fears of global shortages of some common drugs after India limited the export of certain medicines due to the coronavirus.

The world's biggest supplier of generic drugs has restricted exports of 26 ingredients and the medicines made from them.

The restricted drugs include Paracetamol, one of the world's most widely-used pain relievers.

It comes as many drug ingredient makers in China remain shut or cut output.

India's drug makers rely on China for almost 70% of the active ingredients in their medicines, and industry experts have warned that they are likely to face shortages if the epidemic continues. 

"Even drugs that aren't produced in China get their base ingredients from China. Globally there could be a shortage if China and India both get hit," warned analyst Shaun Rein from the China Market Research Group.

The list of ingredients and medicines accounts for 10% of all Indian pharmaceutical exports and includes several antibiotics, such as tinidazole and erythromycin, the hormone progesterone and Vitamin B12.

Oxford Economic's lead economist Stephen Foreman told the BBC that there are indications that the scarcity of ingredients is already forcing up prices: "There are already signs that the reduction in supply to India has pushed up prices there considerably."

The Indian government has urged calm over its announcement and said there were enough stocks to last for up to three months.

In 2018 Indian imports accounted for almost a quarter of US medicines and more than 30% of medicine ingredients, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told US senators on Tuesday that the agency is working to determine how the restrictions will affect America's medical supply and its effect on essential medicines.

Major US pharmaceutical companies have said they are monitoring their supply chains.

Mylan warned last week that there could be drug shortages, while Eli Lilly said it does not expect the coronavirus outbreak to result in shortages for any of its therapies, including insulin products. BBC

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