Covid-19 Outbreak in China Threatens Biopharma In-House Manufacturing

With several mega cap biopharma companies having their vital manufacturing steps in Chinese facilities, the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak is putting the complicated global biopharma industry’s supply chain under strain, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Supply chain problems in China include a largely quarantined workforce, delays in transporting materials, and several other logistical hurdles. While some Chinese factories have returned to normal capacity, others are reportedly operating at between 50% and 80% capacity.

As a result, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic may affect drugs made and marketed by mega cap biopharma companies, such as the UK-based AstraZeneca and Switzerland-based Novartis and Roche.

Fiona Barry, Associate Editor of PharmSource at GlobalData, says “Restrictions on pharmaceutical manufacturing and export will affect many products sold in the US, EU, and other markets. Some of these drugs are manufactured in-house at the biopharma companies’ Chinese manufacturing sites — also known as “captive capacity” manufacturing — while others are outsourced to contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) with facilities in China.”

Affected drugs include AstraZeneca’s Plendil (felodipine), marketed for angina, whose finished dose form is manufactured in-house at AstraZeneca’s site in Wuxi, Jiangsu, China, and Pfizer’s antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride), whose dose form manufacture and packaging are performed at Pfizer’s site in Dalian, Liaoning, China.

However, this does not mean manufacture of these drugs is completely halted. Several biopharma companies dual-source their manufacturing. For instance, the dose form of AstraZeneca’s Plendil is also manufactured at the company’s Stockholm, Sweden, site, and Zoloft is manufactured at several sites outside China by Pfizer and by CMOs.

Barry concludes “It is unclear to what extent disruption in China will affect the world’s supply of pharmaceuticals, as other regions are increasing their production. The government of India has announced $1.96 billion boost to domestic active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing driven by the Covid-19 pandemic’s effect on Chinese supply chains.”

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