Hyderabad, May 8 : Despite being exempted from lockdown, the bulk drug manufacturers in Telangana are operating at only 50 per cent of their capacity, struggling to meet the demand for critical drugs including anti-viral drugs for treating COVID-19 patients in sufficient quantities.
Ever since the lockdown began in March, the bulk drug manufacturers in Hyderabad and surrounding districts have not been able to operate their units at full capacity to meet the domestic and global demand.
The pharma companies rue lack of proper coordination among police in four commissionerates which cover these districts. The frequent checking of the buses carrying their employees and the seizure of the vehicles carrying the materials are hampering their efforts to operate at full capacity to ensure proper supply of essential drugs during the lockdown period.
“We are operating our units at 50 per cent of the capacity due to problems for movement of our employees and materials, P. Eshwar Reddy, executive director, Bulk Drug Manufacturers’ Association (BDMA) told IANS.
“Most of the time police stop our buses and trucks despite showing them the passes. There is not much coordination among the police in four commissionerates. Police personnel in one commissionerate say the pass issued by the other commissionerate is not valid. I can’t take passes from all four commissionerates,” he said.
The operations are also affected due to interruptions in the movement of vehicles carrying the material.
“Our raw materials and various chemicals have to come from outside. The transport movement is not smooth. There are various issues with regard to availability of vehicles, labour and checkposts formed for enforcing the lockdown.”
Accounting for 40 per cent of the total bulk drug production in India, Telangana is known as the bulk drug capital of India.
The bulk drug and pharmaceutical production mainly takes place in Hyderabad and surrounding districts of Rangareddy, Medchal, and Sangareddy.
Officials said during the lockdown the companies successfully supplied azithromycin and other anti-viral drugs used for treating COVID-19 patients in sufficient quantities.
The Telangana State Pollution Control Board also recently gave its consent to pharma companies to establish and operate industries to produce life-saving drugs such as Hydroxychloroquine or its intermediates, to check the Covid-19 outbreak.
Some existing bulk drug/drug intermediate manufacturing industries are coming forward to manufacture Hydroxychloroquine and other life saving bulk drugs or their intermediates to meet the global demand.
Hyderabad and surrounding districts form the largest pharmaceutical hub with more than 800 life sciences companies employing about 1.20 lakh people.
Facing a totally new situation, the companies are taking all precautions like health of the employees, hygiene and social distancing while continuing the production.
Leading vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech, for instance, had to deploy additional buses for their employees.
“A bus with 40-50 seating capacity is today carrying only 20 people because of the social distancing guidelines issued by the authorities. We are following all the guidelines,” said Suchitra Ella, Joint Managing Director, Bharat Biotech.
As the company is located in Genome Valley, the employees have to travel 80-100 km every day.
She said the company had to divide all its employees into three shifts to continue the operations. “Ours is a continuous process operation. All our freezers work at -20 to -70 degrees. Certain systems in production technical block can’t be turned off. They have to run 24X7,” explained Suchitra.
The vaccine maker is ensuring supplies of vaccines including polio and rabies vaccines to the government of India and the state government.
The bulk drug companies are also trying to maintain the supplies for exports. On Wednesday, a commercial B777 Passenger to Cargo (P to C) flight of Aeroflot Airlines of Russia with about 50 tonnes of medicines and vaccines took off for Moscow from Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at [email protected])