The Union Health Ministry in India has asked for steps to be taken to prohibit the export of anti-Tuberculosis medicines, amidst the Coronavirus outbreak, prioritising the demand of the country.
In a communication to the Empowered Group for Facilitating Supply Chain and Logistics Management, the health ministry said “It is requested the empowered group may issue directions to department of pharmaceuticals, ministry of chemicals and fertilisers and department of commerce for their intervention in this regard and also issue necessary direction for prohibiting export of anti-TB medicines while considering mandatorily the need of the country as overriding priority to ensure smooth supply of anti-TB drugs so that NTEP (National TB Elimination Program) does not face any problem in receiving these anti-TB drugs.”
The health ministry said the country is taking various emergency measures to tackle COVID-19 pandemic and TB is a major public health problem causing huge morbidity and mortality burden in the country. The ministry insisted that delay in the production and receipt of supply may cause acute shortage of these drugs in the field.
“The suppliers have communicated that the anti-TB drug supplies will be delayed because of force majeure due to COVID-19 response activities, limited material (API) for production, limited manpower and limited transport facilities”, said the health ministry. The major factories of these drugs are at Ankeshwar and Bharuch in Gujarat, Baddi in Himachal Pradesh and in Daman.
The health ministry insisted that it is needless to emphasize that the situation calls for extraordinary measures to ensure TB patients of the country do not face challenges in accessing either diagnosis or the treatment under NTEP.
The ministry has also asked the chief secretaries of concerned states and Union Territories to ensure transportation services are available to maintain supply of finished products. Also, the people involved in the manufacturing process reach the production site.