NEW DELHI: Health secretary Preeti Sudan has sought a ban on export of anti-tuberculosis medicines amid concerns that the lockdown due to Covid-19 will hit production of the crucial drugs.

Sudan requested an empowered group of government officials to direct the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) and commerce ministry to ban export of the drugs.

“Dept. of pharmaceuticals… and dept. of commerce (should be directed) for their intervention in this regard and also issue necessary direction for prohibiting export of anti-TB medicines while considering mandatorily the need of the country as overriding priority to ensure smooth supply of anti-TB drugs…,” Sudan said in a letter to Parameswaran Iyer, drinking water and sanitation secretary.

Iyer is also the chairman of the empowered group for facilitating supply chain and logistics management. Mint has viewed a copy of the letter. A copy of the letter was also sent to pharma secretary P.D. Vaghela and commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan, apart from chemicals secretary P. Raghavendra Rao.

In India, the leading drug manufacturers of anti-tuberculosis drugs are Macleods Pharma and Lupin, who also supply these medicines to National TB Elimination Program (NTEP).

Major factories for these drugs are in Bharuch and Ankaleshwar in Gujarat, Baddi in Himachal Pradesh and Daman, as per the letter.

Besides asking DoP and the commerce ministry to ban the exports, Sudan also asked the chief secretaries of these states and Daman to ensure transportation services are available to maintain supplies of finished products, and related officials and workers of the factories are able to reach the plant.

The government had last month formed 11 empowered groups for quickly drawing up and executing a comprehensive plan to tackle the adverse impact of the Coronavirus crisis. The 11 panels have been set up under the Disaster Management Act and have been authorised to come up with the plan as well as to take all necessary steps for their time-bound implementation.

Under the Disaster Management Act, Sudan as the health secretary has also been given special powers to take decisions to contain the spread of the covid-19, which has become a global pandemic.

While world-over it has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed more than 170,000 patients, in India the total number of cases on Tuesday crossed 19,000 while the death toll topped 600.

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