Chinese airlines agree to resume drug imports to India

By ET News

Providing major relief to the Indian pharmaceutical sector, the Chinese authorities have agreed to resume the suspended air cargo operations to help India import vital key starting material (KSMs) and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) with over two-thirds of dependence on China.

A week after the Chinese state-owned Sichuan Airlines announced suspending its air cargo services to India for 15 days following the second wave of Covid-19, the Indian authorities have reached out to the Chinese authorities seeking to help avert a major supply chain disruption of essential medicines during the pandemic.

Venkat Hariharan Asha, Deputy Director at the Department of Pharmaceuticals, informed the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) on Thursday that Sichuan Airlines has agreed to resume its cargo operations to India from Sunday.

India’s overall imports of bulk drugs and drug intermediates amounted to $3.84 billion in fiscal to March 2021. Of this, $2.6 billion or 68% of bulk drugs and intermediates were imported from China.

Last week, the Pharmexcil director-general Ravi Uday Bhaskar sought an immediate intervention of the Indian authorities to address the issue stating the Indian pharmaceutical companies were currently sourcing nearly 70% of their requirement of drug intermediates, KSMs and APIs from China. Further, he said, “most importantly 45-50% of all APIs imported feature in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).”

Pharmexcil submitted to the Indian authorities the fears of drug manufacturers that the decision of the Chinese airlines would have cascading effects on the entire supply chain, leading to a shortage of essential medicines for not just for India’s domestic needs but also adversely affect the country’s pharmaceutical exports to meet the global needs in the time of the pandemic.

On Thursday, Venkat Hariharan Asha informed Pharmexcil that “Sichuan Airlines is restarting its operations from Chengdu to Chennai from 12th May, and from Chengdu to Bengaluru on 9th May 2021.”

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