The production of Chinese active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) slipped by 10% to 20% during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in China but is quickly recovering. The bottleneck in the global supply chain for APIs is now shipping, particularly ocean freight.
This is the assessment of Chinese officials who held a press conference. China is focusing its production efforts on APIs that are in highest demand, Xin Guobin, deputy minister of industry and information technology, said, according to a translated transcript of the Chinese language press conference. That includes chloroquine phosphate, which the FDA this week approved for use against COVID-19 based on anecdotal reports of its effectiveness.
Xin said production is stable at the two primary producers of chloroquine phosphate, and efforts are being focused on meeting international demand. One of those producers, Chongqing Kangle Pharmaceuticals, was able to export 4.9 tons of the API within five days, Xin said.
“We can further increase the supply in accordance with international market demand,” Xin said.
Xin said he understands “main constraints to Chinese exports are sea freight, international shipping,” which has been hampered in the face of the outbreak, leading to much higher prices.
Finished pharmaceuticals can be shipped by air freight, but the number of flights in and out of China has fallen significantly as countries set up border restrictions, forcing drugmakers to scramble for slots to ship their products.