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Global biopharma supply chain holding together for now: Vertex, Lilly, Recipharm and others update patients 

March 9, 2020 Eric Palmer

Biopharma companies are keeping a close eye on supply chains as the COVID-19 epidemic has expanded from China putting production in other countries at risk. So far the backbone of the industry appears to be holding, but not without some strains.

As Italy moved to quarantine an area with 16 million people, CDMO Recipharm today said that while its operations in the affected area continue to get supplies and make deliveries, that could change. 

“We anticipate that in the coming days some of our facilities located in the restricted zone of Italy may be operating at a lower capacity than normal“ the CDMO today said in a statement that also promised regular updates. 


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The announcement came as companies also take steps to limit exposure by limiting travel. 

RELATED: Eli Lilly says its drug supply, including insulins, is safe from COVID-19 for now 

In the U.S., Boston, Massachusetts-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals said its cystic fibrosis drugs, Symdeko, Orkambi, Kalydeco, and more recently Trikafta, remain secure.

“The challenges facing the world with the spread of COVID-19 are significant, but it is important for the medical and patient community to know that we remain highly confident in our ability to continue to supply all of our medicines… CEO Jeffrey Leiden, said today in a statement. “We have not seen any impact from COVID-19 on the Trikafta launch or other elements of our business. We are well-prepared from a business continuity perspective, with ample supply to meet commercial needs well into the future.”

Trikafta, the first CF combo drug, was approved last fall to patients over the age of 12 with either one or two copies of the delF508 CFTR gene mutation. Analysts predicted blockbuster sales for the $311,000 list-price drug as early as this year, at least before COVID-19 blurred global economic picture for all drugmakers. 

RELATED: Drugmakers tell analyst ingredient prices are rising as FDA reports first supply hit tied to COVID-19

Canada’s largest drugmaker, API specialist Apotex has said that its API supplies, as well as finished product supplies, are at low risk or interruptions, “in the short and medium term.”  For the long term, Apotex said it is taking the steps it can to “minimize disruption.”

Eli Lilly last week confirmed its drug supplies, including all of its insulins, are still in production and CDMO WuXi Biologics last month said it was resuming production at its China facilities in Wuxi, Shanghai and Suzhou, after an extended Chinese New Year’s break. 

The FDA so far has said it has heard from one drugmaker about a shortage tied to the outbreak but refused to name the drug or the drugmaker. It said there were alternative meds available to make up for the shortage.

Meanwhile, India has curbed the export of 26 APIs but contends it is a short-term move while it gets a handle on its own needs. 

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