* Shift of API production from Europe to Asia since 2000
* High concentration in India, China poses supply risk-study
* Only a few manufacturers worldwide for more than half of
BERLIN, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Two-thirds of the active
ingredients needed to make generic drugs are manufactured in
Asia, a study showed on Wednesday, the latest evidence to
underscore Europe's reliance on foreign imports for its
European governments were rattled at the start of the
coronavirus outbreak when India, one of the biggest producers of
drug ingredients, banned exports of certain products relevant to
the pandemic, prompting concerns about disruptions to supply
chains and a shortage of medicines.
Although those fears were largely unfounded, European Union
health ministers have vowed to boost local drugs production to
safeguard against future bottlenecks.
The study by German generics lobby group Pro Generika
analysed the global production of 565 active pharmaceutical
ingredients (APIs) and found 63% of the quality certificates,
which grant them suitable for use in medicinal products, were
held in Asia, up from around 31% in 2000.
Price pressure and lower regulatory requirements have led to
a shift in drugs production from Europe to Asia over the past
two decades, Pro Generika said.
More than 80% of Asia's certificates are held by
manufacturers in India and China where the majority of producers
are concentrated in just a few states and provinces, the study
found. For more than half of the APIs, there are only a handful
of manufacturers worldwide.
Europe holds 31% of API certificates, down from 59% in 2000
with producers mainly in Italy, Germany, Spain and France
focussing on ingredients with low sales volumes that are complex
Spooked by the pandemic, France in June announced plans to
bolster domestic production of medicines with President Emmanuel
Macron pledging 200 million euros ($236 million) to help
domestic research and manufacturing of medicine.
Austria is also investing money to shore up production at a
an antibiotics plant owned by Swiss drugmaker Novartis's
Sandoz division in Tyrol.
Industry players warn bringing production home may be a
complicated process, saying higher labour costs and tougher
environmental standards make it impossible to compete with Asian
suppliers on price.
Merck KgaA Chief Executive Stefan Oschmann told
Reuters drug shortages at the start of the pandemic were minimal
and it was "unrealistic" to repatriate large parts of the
production chain to Europe.
($1 = 0.8490 euros)
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Additional reporting by Ludwig
Burger; Editing by Mark Potter)