Companies

Bengal Chemicals licensed overnight to make Hydroxychloroquine

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on April 10, 2020

PSU pharma company, Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, has obtained licence to manufacture hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), an anti-malaria drug now found being used to treat for coronavirus infection.

This comes even as the West Bengal government is actively considering restarting operations at its cinchona plantations in Darjeeling hills. Quinine - the prime ingredient for anti-malarial drugs - was previously made from the bark of cinchona trees. However, in recent times chloroquine - a synthetic drug - is used for making the medicine.

Hydroxychloroquine or HCQ has taken centrestage , after preliminary trials suggested faster recoveries and lowered severity of Covid-19. Demand for the medicine is on the rise from countries including that of the USA. In India, ICMR has recommended its usage for frontline healthcare workers.

It is the only public sector unit in eastern India that manufactures anti-malarial drugs. It had applied for a licence yesterday, from the Drugs Controller General of India to produce HCQ.

“We have got the clearances on Friday from the authorities to manufacture HCQ. We have the capacities and infrastructure to manufacture around 10,00,000-15,00,000 tablets per day,” PM Chandraiah, Managing Director, Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, told BusinessLine. The PSU pharmaceutical will manufacture 200 and 400 milligram tablets of HCQ.

At present, the company manufactures ‘chloroquine phosphate’ used primarily as an anti-malarial drug.

Raw material shortage

According to Chandraiah, he has written to both the central and State governments for API. He has also offered the use of the company’s facilities for manufacture of HCQ. “We have written on the absence of API and sought raw materials. We are ready to produce HCQ and supply them at a cost-to-cost basis (at no profit),” he said.

Cinchona plantations

Meanwhile, West Bengal government has asked the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to submit a report on the feasibility of restarting operations at its plantations, at Mongpu in Kurseong district. The plantations are spread over 9,600 acres; but have been closed for over 15 years now.

In a meeting with industry captains, trade bodies and chambers of commerce, the West Bengal government raised the issue of restarting production to ensure that there was no shortage of the drug.

“We will prepare and submit a report over the next one week regarding the feasibility of restarting the state-owned cinchona plantations. The report will also cover how to re-open the factories and the required machineries. It will also include the time frame and capex involved in the exercise,” Sanjit Saha, Chairman of CII’s North Bengal zonal council, said.

Published on April 10, 2020

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