1. Hindustan Antibiotic’s moves to explore opportunities in line with self-reliant India
Around 70% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) needed for the production of important drugs in India are imported from China. However, the current volatility between the two countries has instilled fear and uncertainty in the minds of everyone. To reduce this dependency, India has decided to explore other options.
In March 2020, the government had come up with a set of schemes to make India self-reliant. One of these schemes was the 10,000 crores PLI scheme. This scheme was aimed at reducing the dependency on China for essential items like crucial antibiotics, vitamins, anti-diabetic medicines, etc. As per this scheme, around Rs.10 crore would be provided to the domestic manufacturer for the production of pharmaceutical products. The criteria to be fulfilled is that the manufacturer must produce 41 products that cover the 53 crucial APIs. These units must also be completely backward integrated.
This decision has been a huge boon to domestic manufacturers like Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd (HAL). HAL has decided to make use of this opportunity and is now gearing up to manufacture the key bulk drugs that come under this PLI scheme. It plans to invest around Rs.20 crore to increase its production capacity in the Pune plant. This investment is a part of the pre-requisite for the PLI scheme. Telmisartan, meropenem and gabapentin are the three bulk drugs that will be manufactured in this plant.
The company is also expecting a 100 crore turnover and zero losses in the financial year 2020-21.
HAL has stated that the initial investment would be provided from the internal sources. It also claimed that it would produce its key starting materials and other chemicals required for the production of API.
The company is vertically integrated and plans to produce around 100 tonnes of telmisartan and gabapentin each month. Approximately, 20 tonnes of meropenem would be produced per month. This production process is most likely to start by December 2020.
Around 375 employees of this company were given a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) in recent times. The company has also asked the government to provide them their funds. On receiving this fund, it plans to release another 300 employees. If such changes are made, then only 175 employees will be on payrolls. This decision was made to cut down the cost. The company’s spokesperson claimed that the wage bill stood at Rs.2.1 crores per month for 480 employees. But reducing the number of employees would bring this down to approximately Rs.1 crore.
The financial losses experienced by this company in the financial year 2020 is speculated to be around Rs530 crores.
The firm has decided to utilize fermentation-based APIs as a part of its next phase of expansion.
It is to be noted that in December 2016, the Indian government had identified four pharma PSU for the sale of surplus land. The PSUs that were selected include the Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals (IDL), Rajasthan Drugs and Pharmaceutical (RDPL), HAL and Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals.
Unfortunately, this deal did not go through to any of the PSUs as no potential buyers could be identified. So in July 2019, the government extended this right to private undertakings too.
HAL had been severely hit by the import of penicillin from China. From 1972, the company began to experience losses owing to the import of its main product, penicillin.
Abbreviations: 1. Production-linked incentive scheme
2. Public sector undertaking
2.Brazil signs the deal to produce AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine:
On 27 June 2020, Brazil signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to begin the local production of the Covid-19 experimental vaccine developed by AstraZeneca.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has claimed that this vaccine is the world’s leading candidate. This vaccine is also undergoing rapid developments to get the licensure for becoming an official vaccine against the disease.
This vaccine was developed by the researchers in Oxford University. The large scale human clinical trials of this vaccine are being carried out by AstraZeneca.
Brazil’s health official has announced that around 30 million doses of the vaccine will be produced initially. One half of this vaccine will be manufactured by December 2020 and the other half by January 2021. He further clarified that payment for the vaccine was done despite knowing the possibility of this vaccine not passing the necessary licensure requirements. The vaccine will be produced by the country’s leading public health organization, Fiocruz. This organization is also known as Fundacao Osvaldo Cruz.
The coronavirus pandemic has been playing havoc with Brazil and turned it into the world’s second most affected country. As of 27 June 2020, around 1.2 million Covid-19 cases and 55,000 deaths were confirmed in Brazil.
The Brazilian president is also being criticized for his indifference towards the severity of the disease and the death counts.