Favipiravir shortage may get filled up in a couple of weeks provided people don't hoard

Favipiravir shortage may get filled up in a couple of weeks provided people don't hoard
People wait in queues outside the office of the Chemists Association to demand necessary supply of the anti-viral drug Remdesivir, in Pune, India, Thursday, April 8, 2021.AP
  • There has been chatter around the shortage of Favipiravir in India, so we tried to find out.
  • Favipiravir is an antiviral drug that is being used to cure mild symptoms of covid-19.
  • The demand for the drug is unprecedented, but the shortage is because of panic buying and hoarding.
Just like Remdesivir, there is an increasing number of reports of a shortage in the supply of Favipiravir, the generic name for Fabiflu (the brand sold by Glenmark) in many parts of India.

Business Insider spoke to a bunch of pharmacies across many major cities in India, and the general consensus seems to be that it may take another couple of weeks for the supply to match the rising demand. In a statement last week, Glenmark told the stock exchanges that it’s ramping up production. Other makers of this drug include Cipla, Hetero and Avigan. But the demand has already shot through the roof, partly, due to hoarding.

The antiviral medicine, which was recently approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for treating mildly infected individuals with COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, breathing difficulty, nasal congestion, and diarrhoea among others, is second only to Remdesivir amidst the second wave of COVID-19 that has taken the total death toll to 1,95,123 as of April 26.

The story of Favipiravir shortage is not the same everywhere

Online vendors see the supply trend differing from one part of the country to another. "We are seeing unprecedented demand for Fabiflu and other products for Favipiravir. Some geographies like Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru are struggling with stocks. We are not able to fulfil all the demand that we get on the platform,” Dharmil Sheth, co-founder of online medicine delivery startup Pharmeasy told Business Insider.


Like Sheth, Varun Mimani, the Head of Supply Chain at 1mg said that the severity and nature of the supply crunch varies from one region to another, even within the same city. “There is a shortage of Fabiflu in the market. It’s not as if there is no stock, but stock is trickling in at a pace that is lesser than the current demand in the market. The situation is expected to get better going forward with the manufacturer ramping up production,” he said.

Mimani’s take matched with the accounts of pharmacy owners in Delhi. The owner of Paras Chemist, a pharmacy close to Max Hospital in Saket, Delhi, said that he has enough stock to last for at least a week with the current demand. He did mention that there has been a shortage lately but it did not last long.

Favipiravir shortage may get filled up in a couple of weeks provided people don't hoard
Online medicine delivery apps show Fabiflu stock shortage in Noida.Business Insider India

Speaking on the same lines by Dr. Rommel Tickoo, associate director of Internal medicine at Max Hospital said, “there is a pseudo shortage of Fabiflu due to hoarding. People who need it are not getting it and it’s actually going waste.”

In other areas of Delhi like Rohini, Janakpuri and GTB Nagar, pharmacy owners did not face any shortage in Favipiravir supply. However, what they did tell us was that there's no certainty that the next lot will arrive seamlessly in the future.

The story outside Delhi ⁠— Pharmacists across India want more Favipiravir as demand surges

The owner of Saanidhya Pharma, Bengaluru, told Business Insider over a phone call, that he ran out of stock last week and isn’t expecting a refill until next week. Other pharmacies in India’s IT capital had similar stories.

In Hyderabad, some pharmacies that did not want to be named told that there is a shortage of Favipiravir and there's no update from the distributors on when they will receive the stocks.

Favipiravir shortage may get filled up in a couple of weeks provided people don't hoard
People queuing outside a pharmacy in CoimbatoreBCCL

Drug stores in Kochi, Lucknow and Noida also seem to have the Favipiravir stock despite the rise in demand. In these cities, even those chemists that have run out of stock are hopeful. According to them, the supply is inconsistent and slow but hasn't stopped coming in.

Arun (name changed) who works at an in-house pharmacy of a busy hospital in Lucknow told, "demand is obviously high, but the stocks are flowing like usual, medicines going out of stock is normal especially when the demand is high.”

Fear is a bad thing

Speaking to these sources, Business Insider realised that one of the contributors to the lack of supply is panic buying. As much as the scarcity, it’s the fear of one that’s leading people to hoard the drug that is hardly a cure for COVID-19 infection.

To stop hoarding, pharmacy owners want the government to make it mandatory to provide doctors’ prescriptions. Some of these owners said they may even ask for an ID card (along with a prescription) as an added measure to make sure no one except for those prescribed by the doctor gets the medicine.

It is now important for both the companies and governments to set the record straight on the supply, pricing and efficacy of Favipiravir. Else, we may risk another round of predatory pricing like the one we saw with Remdesivir, which is being sold at a cost many times higher than its maximum retail price.