Aspen: no immediate impact of India’s decision to curb drug exports

‘Of course if this lasts for a year and there are no supplies… we’re going to see issues.’
Image: Supplied

The deputy chief executive of South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare said on Friday the drugmaker sees no immediate impact of India’s decision this week to restrict the export of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients due to the coronavirus outbreak.

An important supplier of generic drugs to the world, Indian drugmakers rely on China, the source of the virus outbreak, for almost 70% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for their medicines. Industry experts say they are likely to face shortages if the epidemic drags on.

“Certainly no immediate impact and we have only a very low exposure to any of those chemicals on that list,” deputy CEO and financial director Gus Attridge told Reuters in a telephone interview after presenting the firm’s first-half results, which were published on Thursday.

“Just in South Africa we might not get stock (of paracetamol). But we do have decent stocks around API and supply to be able to weather that type of storm,” CEO Stephen Saad told analysts at the presentation in Cape Town.

“Of course if this lasts for a year and there are no supplies… we’re going to see issues.”

The drugmaker, which is 170 years old and has a presence in about 56 countries, said the virus had resulted in its Chinese commercial team being largely inactive since February and this would impact the second half results of its 2020 financial year.

Aspen expects an impact on its anaesthetics and thrombosis portfolios, which account for 30% of its commercial pharma business. In China, patients are deferring elective surgeries such as hip replacements and cataract extraction to avoid being exposed to the virus, Attridge said.

But sales there will be sustained by procedures such as haemodialysis, which cannot be deferred.

“There is some literature around that sedation is helpful for treating the virus itself so there may be some application growing in the anaesthesia space but we don’t see evidence of that right now,” Attridge told Reuters.

Aspen is, however, seeing a spike in demand for medicines such as antibiotics and headache tablets in Australia as people try to fill their medicine cabinets at home with products they think might be helpful if they get the virus, Attridge said.

“Those are flying off the shelves. Pharmacies in Australia are having their biggest sales days in history and stock is being depleted,” he added.

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