Chinese Pharma Mess UPSC

Skills That You Can Learn From Chinese Pharma Mess | UPSC


COVID-19 and the big pharma mess

      WHY IN NEWS:

With more deaths around COVID-19 . There is a significant rise in Pharma industries.



For PRELIMS understand the essence of API ! We have a brief comparison on import data too.

For MAINS it is the right time to frame a wonderful answer on global medicine supply chain and Chinese supremacy involved. You should fetch more marks in such answers with handful of examples.


The pandemic has exposed a serious fault line in the global pharmaceutical supply chain, created by an industry that flourished by putting profit before public health. Amid shortage of life-saving drugs, countries now scramble for self-sufficiency.


  • With close to three million people hit by COVID-19 globally and over 0.2 million dead, pharmaceuticals have turned out to be the most vital sector.
  • It’s about national security, say countries, and each wants to reduce its dependence on foreign supplies.


  • USA : The federal government seized masks, thermometers and other essentials ordered by different states.
  • FRANCE  : The government requisitioned all available masks for its own use.
  • ISRAEL  : The country deployed its intelligence agency, Mossad, to take control of all ventilators in the country.

  Worldwide, there is a demand for at least 880,000 ventilators.

  • GERMANY : It has 25,000 ventilators with 10,000 more on way, but the country is unwilling to share it.

NITI Aayog
# April 3 : India would need 27 million N95 masks, 15 million PPE, 1.6 million diagnostic kits and 50,000 ventilators within two months.


  Active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIS) are basic therapeutic chemicals that act as raw materials for producing tablets, capsules and syrups.

RESTRICTED LIST : India put 13 APIS, also called bulk drugs, and their formulations on the restricted list for exports on March 3 and then banned their export on April 4.

EXPORT INDICES : These accounted for 10 per cent of India’s total pharma export.

  • The anti-malarial HCQ was part of the list.
  • But India was forced to lift the ban on humanitarian grounds.
  • Export of formulations made from paracetamol were also allowed, though DGFT continued to restrict export of the API for paracetamol.

With a bulk of the production of pharmaceuticals and medical essentials occuring only in China and India, global reliance on these countries is overwhelming.


  • Developed countries make APIS only for patented drugs.
  • It is left to India and China to produce APIS for generic drugs.
  • The US imports 80 per cent of the APIS from the two countries.


  • China is the biggest player.
  • It provides 97 per cent of the antibiotics and over 90 per cent of vitamin C used in the US.

  In 2018, 95 per cent of ibuprofen, 91 per cent of hydrocortisone, 70 per cent of acetaminophen and 40-45 per cent of heparin in the US was procured from China.

  •  90 per cent of the APIS for generic medicines in the EU were sourced from India and China.


  • Sector first developed in China, it was state-owned.
  • The government’s strategically support to  the industry.
  • Incentives such as cheap electricity,Water and labour,
  • Negligible financial costs and no charge on land;
  • Established special industrial zones.

Chinese APIS in 2018 was $30.48 billion and the export volume reached 929.72 million tonnes.-China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health .


China emerged the winner and managed to kill India’s existing pharmaceutical sector.

FOR EXAMPLE : China dumped cheap Penicillin G in India, outperforming Indian manufacturers like Hindustan Antibiotic in the public sector and many more.

  • Unlike China, India is more involved in producing finished products.
  • India is the world’s largest provider of generic medicines, accounting for 20 per cent of global generic drug exports in volume terms.

  Small wonder, India is also called the “pharmacy to the world”.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • Indian manufacturers represent 67 per cent of the 563 WHO pre-qualified pharmaceutical products for HIV/AIDS, diarrhoea, hepatitis, malaria, influenza, reproductive health, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.
  • Unfortunately, production of 130 of these drugs is dependent on APIS sourced from China.
  • Of the total import of APIS in India, 67.56 per cent is from China.

Undoubtedly the Skills That You Can Learn From Chinese Pharma Mess will be Grow local , Strategic imports and inculcating new business technologies.

     SOURCES:DownToEarth | Skills That You Can Learn From Chinese Pharma Mess | UPSC

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