Producing medicine for coronavirus in Romania: mission impossible

Dragoș Damian, the director of Terapia, Romania’s largest pharmaceutical company, has admitted the company cannot produce the medicine necessary for the pandemic because politicians haven’t moved a finger to support drug makers. The leader of the company says that they cannot produce, for example, Remdesivir or Favipiravir, drugs that were not developed for coronavirus but, according to studies, have proven effective in the treatment of it. Furthermore, the director says they have no support whatsoever from the present administration to take the steps necessary to be able to produce such drugs.

Instead of investing in the development of the pharmaceutical industry, in 2015, politicians instituted a quarterly tax that put a greater burden on manufacturers, meaning they could not invest this money on research and development. Now, in the middle of the pandemic, there is a need for new medicines, but this cannot happen right away because pharmaceutical companies are simply not prepared.

Dragoş Damian is angry because Minister Ludovic Orban recently complained that there is “political will” for the domestic production of Remdesivir, but they cannot find a producer for it. With this statement, the minister was refusing to take responsibility for a situation created by the state.

Hungary recognized 10 years ago that support for the pharmaceutical industry is crucial, and the results of this approach are clearly visible: Hungary exports EUR 1.5 billion worth of drugs each year, while Romania’s drug exports total EUR 400 million.

The director gave other examples of governments that support the pharmaceutical industry, for example $800 million in the U.S. and €50 million in Austria. Meanwhile in Romania, if any manufacturer complains about the low level of funding, the Health Insurance Treasury (CNAS) official simply says “Take it or leave it,” as they can always find another producer.

Damian concludes that if they received the €100 million that they have been asking for to develop new medicines, they would be able to produce the drugs required.

Romania has ordered 770,000 doses of Favipiravir from abroad. The director of Terapia, however, also indicated that starting in 2021, they could also produce the medicine if they receive the required funding to do so.

Featured photo: romania.europalibera.org


Author: Blanka Székely