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COVID-19 may significantly hurt the drug supply chains of the biggest pharmaceutical companies

Published on 27/03/20 at 10:34am
Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cherie Gregory

The increasing spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic threatens the drug supply lines of the biggest pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Novartis and Roache.

A recent report from GlobalData outlines the main problems caused by the pandemic, stating that a quarantined workforce, delays to the transport of materials as well as other logistical problems are all contributing to a slowdown in drug production.

Most of the world’s activite pharmaceutical ingredients come from China, and COVID-19 has massively disrupted production for factories producing these ingredients. However, it is estimated that some have returned to normal capacity, with others operating between 50% and 80%.

Fiona Barry, Associate Editor of PharmSource at Global data, said: “Restrictions on pharmaceutical manufacturing and export will affect many products sold in the U.S., EU, and other markets. Some of these drugs are manufactured in-house at the biopharma companies’ Chinese manufacturing site while others are outsourced to contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) with facilities in China.

“It is unclear to what extent disruption in China will affect the world’s supply of pharmaceuticals, as other regions are increasing their production. The Government of India has announced US$1.96bn boost to domestic active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing driven by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on Chinese supply chains.”

In late February, the FDA said that it had been in contact with more than 180 manufactures reminding them of their legal requirement to disclose to the FDA any potential shortages of supplies for making drugs.

This follows a report by the Jefferies Financial Group that predicts Europe will be worst hit by drug supply shortages and it is expected to delay the launch of multiple drugs. These include Novo Nordisk’s Rybelsus (semaglutide) type 2 diabetes pill, with an estimated $524 million in potential sales at risk and AstraZeneca’s launch of Calquence for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, where predicted sales of $44 million are also at risk.

Conor Kavanagh


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