Sikkim drug manufacturing units halt operations due to Covid, raising supply concerns

NEW DELHI: Several drug manufacturing units in Sikkim have halted operations, while others are functioning at significantly reduced capacities after Covid-19 cases were detected at their facilities, raising concerns over supply of medicines in the country.

“Major pharma units including Zydus Wellness, Mankind Pharma, Sun Pharmaceuticals, Alembic Pharmaceuticals and Golden Cross Pharma have shut down operations as they were declared containment zones,” a senior government official told ET.

Macleods Pharmaceuticals, Cipla, Torrent Pharmaceuticals, Intas Pharmaceuticals, Lupin and one unit of Sun Pharma are operating at low capacities.

“While one of the units of Sun Pharma in Gangtok had to be closed as it is declared as a containment zone, unit II is partially operational,” said a government official.

“The Sikkim pharma industry has been facing the Covid-19 crisis for about a week now. There are about 30-40 major companies that have all been shut or are working at low operational capacities,” said Ramesh Juneja, CMD of Mankind Pharma, which makes vitamins and drugs for hypertension at its plant in the northeastern state.

Mankind Pharma has started making these products at its Paonta Sahib plant in Himachal Pradesh to maintain supplies.

“We have taken permission to produce the same products at our plant in Paonta Sahib to ensure that shortages are not faced,” Juneja said.

Pharma experts estimate about 60% of the country’s oral solids – tablets and capsules – come from Sikkim.

Pharma companies operating at low capacities in Sikkim have to accommodate their employees inside the plant.

“One unit of Sun Pharma is working at up to 30% capacity. Macleod Pharma is operational at 45% capacity and Torrent Pharma at 30% capacity,” one person said.

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Sikkim is under a statewide lockdown from July 21 to August 1. All government offices, shops, commercial establishments, institutions, markets and factories are shut, except where an exemption is granted.

The state government has allowed pharma units outside containment zones to operate with minimum staff, subject to strict adherence to social distancing norms and regulation of movement of people and goods.

Companies within containment zones must arrange for accommodation and catering for the minimum staff required within their premises.

“The staff members shall not be allowed to leave the factory premises during the entire period of the lockdown without Covid-19 testing,” the Sikkim chief secretary said in an order.

However, a rule requiring truck drivers and helpers bringing essential commodities from Siliguri in West Bengal to be changed upon arrival in the state border town of Rangpo has become a cause of concern for companies.

“This essentially means having two teams of drivers/helpers on either side of the border. This is an impractical rule,” a senior pharma company executive said on condition of anonymity.



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