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As coronavirus spreads, reliance on foreign sourcing strains pharma supply chains

March 27, 2020 / Deborah Abrams Kaplan

With all the supply chain focus on personal protective equipment (PPE), one area is getting less notice: pharmaceuticals. The U.S. places a lot of pharmaceutical eggs in one basket. Congressional testimony noted that 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are produced abroad, mostly from China and India. In 2018, the U.S. imported 95% of its ibuprofen from China, in addition to 91% of the U.S. supply of hydrocortisone, 70% of its acetaminophen, 40% to 45% of its penicillin and 40% of its heparin. Vitamin C and B12 are also ingredients sourced from China, said Nada Sanders, a supply chain management professor at Northeastern University. "India cannot make a lot of its antibiotics and a lot of its medications if it doesn't get sources from China," she told Supply Chain Dive. When COVID-19 hit China, the country closed down or slowed some of its manufacturing, and that included pharmaceutical drugs and ingredients. As a result, India's government restricted export of some of its manufactured drugs and ingredients, including paracetamol (acetaminophen), antibiotics like tinidazole, erythromycin and neomycin, antiviral medication acyclovir, progesterone, and vitamins B1, B6 and B12.