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Coronavirus outbreak escalation could impact drug supply chain

Concerns raised that the virus could cause shortages

Drugs

As governments step up efforts to contain growing outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, concerns have been raised that the global health threat could affect the supply of certain drugs.

According to Axios, approximately 150 prescriptions drugs are at risk of shortages if the coronavirus – or COVID-19 – outbreak worsens in China. That includes certain antibiotics, generics and some branded drugs which have no alternatives, according to two sources familiar with a list complied by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA announced yesterday that it will increase its efforts to ensure the quality of ‘foreign products’, after concerns were raised that the security of the US drug supply chain could be compromised due to the significant amount of ingredients which are currently manufactured in China.

Around 88% of active pharmaceutical ingredients used in drugs for the US market were manufactured overseas in 2018, with around 14% in that year produced in China, reported Reuters.

"There is a lot of reliance on China for antibiotics, and I worry about it for sure," former FDA compliance executive Steven Lynn, who now runs a consulting firm, told CBS News.

"The worst-case scenario is China starts shutting down all its ports. That means no more air traffic, boats or trains are going out and raw material can't get out of the country," he added.

The FDA has acknowledged that the outbreak could affect the supply of drugs to the country, saying that it is “surveilling the medical product supply chain for potential shortages or disruptions and helping to mitigate such impacts, as necessary”.

The regulatory agency added that it is “keenly aware that the outbreak will likely impact the medical product supply chain, including potential disruptions to supply or shortages of critical medical products in the US”.

Although no such drug shortage has occurred yet, drug makers and health regulators are on the look out for any potential disruption.

On the pharma side, AstraZeneca recently announced, as part of its fourth quarter results, that it expects the coronavirus outbreak to have an impact on its 2020 revenues.

China is one of AZ’s big contributors to revenue growth, and the uncertainty around the impact of the coronavirus caused the company to project 2020 sales at a “high single-digit to a low double-digit percentage”.

Other drug makers, including Roche, Merck & Co, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer have all acknowledged that that they are monitoring the situation and potential for the outbreak to affect supply chains.

"The situation is fluid, but at this point we do not anticipate impacts to our supply chain unless disruption due to the COVID-19 outbreak is sustained over the next several months," said Merck in a statement made to CBS MoneyWatch.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

25th February 2020

From: Regulatory

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