In recent times, the global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been dominating the news headlines and becoming a shock to the economy, interrupting both supply chains and consumer confidence. The pandemic has caused widespread fears and uncertainties, especially in the healthcare industry, and the information about how to mitigate the spread of the disease continues to be fluid. With the shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), diagnostic kits, and other critical medical supplies, the pandemic has brought medical supply chains into the spotlight. While the pharmaceutical industry has been invigorated by governments and health authorities to fight against the COVID-19, the industry’s operation has been damaged by the pandemic-related disruptions and insufficient information.

Ibuprofen and Danger of COVID-19 Rumors: Is the Drug Safe to Use?

As the COVID-19 crisis deepens, APIs and a wide range of drugs including antiviral, antibiotics, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are seeing the highest demand. NSAIDs, particularly ibuprofen, has been facing intense scrutiny in the time of COVID-19 pandemic, as the drug briefly touted for appropriate fever remedy is not entirely risk-free to coronavirus infection. The online furor over whether ibuprofen is safe or worsens the virus has led to false reports and misinformation. This is likely to have an impact on the global ibuprofen API market.

Following contradictory evidence, health authorities and medical institutes warning individuals concerned about COVID-19 to avoid ibuprofen are backing off that claim. While there is no scientific evidence establishing a link between the drug and worsening COVID-19, product information of many NSAIDs contains that the anti-inflammatory effects may suppress the symptoms of a worsening infection. Therefore, healthcare professionals and patients are advised to use ibuprofen as per the approved product information and at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible period.

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COVID-19 Impact on Ibuprofen API Production and Supply Chain

Widespread city lockdowns, travel restrictions, production shutdowns triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic have shown fragility in access to Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) which are an essential component of medicines. The ibuprofen API market in particular is largely affected by supply chain disruptions for generic drug producers who source APIs from China along with export restrictions on 26 pharmaceutical ingredients and formulations in India, which hosts a large number of generic drug makers. India’s heavy reliance on import of their APIs from China and slowed production of the APIs by the latter resulted in higher cost and shortages of raw materials required for generics such as Advil (a brand name for generic ibuprofen). Export restrictions were thus imposed to prevent domestic shortages which are expected to have a negative impact on the ibuprofen API market.

 The scarcity of raw materials accompanied by movement restrictions and logistical delays during the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed the weight of the global pharmaceutical industry on China. Despite reopening of factories and relaxation of export restrictions in the nation, many worst-hit countries are implementing export control which will continue to impact the pharma supply chains and the ibuprofen API market is no exception.

COVID-19 to Influence Rationing and Price Gouging of Ibuprofen API

Prior to the pandemic, pharmaceutical industry experts and business analysts predicted momentum for cloud-based drug discovery platform and 3D printed drugs with significant advances in medical technology. Despite contingency plans in place and flexible supply chain and clinical trial process, the pandemic situation is unprecedented which are likely to transform existing trends. Price gouging as a practice that emerges due to shortages is a real concern with pharmaceutical products, especially ibuprofen API, during the pandemic. Manufacturers are thus focusing on ramping up their production with support from governments, in addition to preparing to ensure an effective response.

Considering a widening demand-supply gap for COVID-19 test kits, medical ventilators, and PPE, ibuprofen API and other generic drugs may be rationed or patients may not receive care, if supplies are not adequate. COVID-19 is a wake-up call to the vulnerabilities of ibuprofen API supply chain which will compel pharmaceutical companies to invest in long-term solutions. Regulatory bodies are further likely to closely address and analyze the link between ibuprofen and worsening COVID-19 to curb significant ramifications, ranging from false claims to hoarding practice.

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