India Reduces Duty on ‘Life-Saving’ Remdesivir Amid Domestic Shortage, To Import It From Bangladesh

Facing a virulent second COVID wave, India is already ramping up its manufacturing capacity to produce the drug Remdesivir, which is being extensively employed by doctors to manage COVID symptoms in severely ill patients. On Monday, India reduced the import duty on the drug, paving the way for its import from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The Indian government on Wednesday reduced the import duty on Remdesivir, a key drug being employed by doctors to manage COVID symptoms, amid a widespread shortage of the medicine as the nation grapples with a virulent second wave.

“Considering the immediate requirement on the recommendation of the Department of Pharmaceuticals, the Department of Revenue has reduced the customs duty on Remdesivir and its API/KSM. This step will further augment domestic availability of Remdesivir injections,” India’s federal Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Devaragunda Venkappa Sadananda Gowda said on Wednesday, citing a 20 April order from the federal Finance Ministry.

The federal order reasoned that it was in the “public interest” to reduce the import duty on the Remdesivir injection.

Jharkhand state Health Minister ​Banna Gupta had told Sputnik that the state authorities had been waiting for permission from the federal government to import the drug, having identified a drug manufacturer in Bangladesh to fulfil the order.

He cited the letter penned by Jharkhand’s State Chief Hemant Soren to federal Minister Gowda on Sunday, in which the state head sought permission from the federal authorities to import the drug into India.

​“Since we could not get the Remdesivir as per our requirement from the Indian manufacturer, we started exploring the international market for procuring Remdesivir. We have been able to get a quotation from BEXIMCO Pharmaceuticals for 50,000 vials of Demsivir IV injection (Remdesivir) at the total cost of one million US dollars, which the Jharkhand government is willing to procure at the earliest in light of the pressing need for this medicine.

“I would request you to allow the import of this medicine so that we could save precious lives at the earliest,” Soren had stated.

In his communication to the federal minister, Soren flagged the “acute scarcity” of the drug in his home state of Jharkhand, pointing out that it had received only 8,038 vials of Remdesivir in federal supplies in the previous fortnight despite ordering 76,640 vials.

“You are aware that Remdesivir is a very important and vital medicine in the treatment protocol of a COVID 19 case,” he highlighted.

Reacting to India’s decision to reduce import duties on the drug as well as its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), Bangladesh’s Deputy High Commissioner to New Delhi Toufique Hasan told Sputnik that Dhaka was “ready to assist” its neighbour in the hour of need.

He confirmed that only the Jharkhand government has placed an order with the BEXIMCO Pharmaceuticals so far.

The shortage of live saving drugs, oxygen and other life-saving equipment has become particularly acute in recent weeks, amid a daily average spurt of over 200,000 infections experienced over the last week.

Besides importing the drug, New Delhi is also ramping up its manufacturing capacity to produce the drug domestically. Mansukh Mandaviya, the federal Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers, said on Sunday that the country would double its capacity to produce the antiviral drug to 300,000 vials per day in the next 15 days.

Mandaviya also stated that the government had given permission to 20 new factories to augment the domestic production of Remdesivir.

In its sharpest daily spike in cases to date, India reported more than 295,000 infections on Wednesday, per the federal Health and Family Welfare Ministry. The country’s COVID caseload now stands at just over 15 million, the second highest in the world.

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