New Delhi: The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has urged the government to declare active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) a strategic sector and allow firms with lower capacity utilisation to take up their manufacturing to lower import dependence on China for it.
In a set of action points for strengthening the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors for combating the coronavirus crisis, the CII said approvals for new investments for production of APIs should be fast-tracked and blanket environment permission should be provided to manufacture any API on the basis of self-certification for the pollution load requirement compliance.
APIs are bulk drugs used for production of formulations and branded medicines. India imports large quantities of bulk drugs. China alone accounts for over 68 per cent of the total import. Coronavirus has disrupted the supply.
The industry body said the country should consider creation of large API parks with fiscal benefits for existing APIs and intermediates plants.
Supportive regulatory framework and common infrastructure facilitating single-window clearances for API parks; boosting drug formulations from indigenous APIs and its intermediates; and providing incentives for new product development, processes and technology are among the suggestions by CII.
It's said the outbreak could lead to significant supply shortage in the medical technology sector as well, especially for critical medicines and medical devices, like thermometers, nebulisers and glucometers.
The medical devices market too is heavily import dependent at 70-80 per cent with devices, like imaging equipment (CT & MRI scanners), cardiac stents, orthopaedic implants, glucometers and critical care equipment cornering a large share. Many raw materials and components are also imported from China.
While the real impact on industry was likely to be visible only after April, the local manufacturers' capacities must be bolstered, which could become reliable sources amidst global shortages, said the CII.
On healthcare, the CII has recommended that hospitals in larger cities and district hospitals in smaller cities should be identified or designated as 'COVID hospitals' for testing and isolation of patients. Private hospitals can contribute required equipment and manpower.
It has also suggested adoption of wide-scale E-ICU/teleconsultation to tackle the spread of COVID-19, especially in its phase 3 and 4.
The CII has set up the control centre and the backend systems required for E-ICU and these can be scaled up with the support of the government, as necessary.