“Wonder drug” Hydroxychloroquine loses steam, sees drop in demand and price
After an initial increase following the onset of the pandemic, the demand and price for hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) have dropped down to the normal range as it is no more used to treat COVID-19.
Though HCQ is still in use to manage and treat various conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and an autoimmune disease called lupus, the demand and price for HCQ API have seen a sudden decline. The prices have dropped by 67 percent in the third quarter of 2020, and it is expected to decline 3–4 percent further in the near future. The demand for hydroxychloroquine was at its peak in the second quarter of 2020, when it was being used in the treatment of COVID-19. On average, the API prices had increased by 10–15 percent, and in some cases, the prices went up by more than 50 percent. With other cost-effective alternative drugs replacing it, the demand for HCQ has stagnated.
India is one of the major global suppliers of hydroxychloroquine API and its formulations, producing almost 70 percent of the world’s HCQ. It imports raw materials from China and Hungary. The export of HCQ increased dramatically in the last year, to mostly cater to the demand in the U.S., Europe, Brazil, and other developed nations. Even though North America is responsible for 30 percent of the global demand, it completely relies on India for its supply needs.
The pandemic had greatly influenced the global hydroxychloroquine market in April–May 2020. The unpredicted rise in the demand of HCQ drove up the prices from June 2020. Global suppliers were quoting high prices as the demand was at an all-time high, while raw materials were scarcely available due to the lockdown protocols.
During COVID-19, the lead time to procure the supply increased due to the delay in shipments. Even though 70–80 percent of the major ports and shipping points were operational, a decrease in the number of operating flights had negatively impacted the delivery of supplies. With various countries easing lockdown restrictions, companies are expected to start operating at full capacity in the coming months.
Investment to expand production capacity and equipment costs are the two key fixed costs in manufacturing HCQ API. The cost of raw materials is the main component that determines the hydroxychloroquine market price. Another factor affecting the global HCQ price is labor costs, which vary highly based on each geography. At present, the prices of HCQ raw materials are on a decline. As there is no supply-demand crunch, the prices of raw materials are predicted to stabilize in the future.
- The COVID-19 pandemic had increased the demand for hydroxychloroquine drastically for nearly two months in April–May 2020.
- In 2020, the global consumption of hydroxychloroquine API was estimated at 100–120 MT with APAC and the U.S. as the high-demand geographies due to large COVID-19 affected populations.
- The price for HCQ hiked in Q2 2020 owing to the difficulty in procuring raw materials due to the lockdown restrictions. The prices for HCQ dropped by 67 percent in the third quarter of 2020 and are expected to fall by 3-4 percent further.
- India is one of the major hydroxychloroquine suppliers, accountable for 70 percent of global demand, with the U.S., Europe, Brazil, and other developed nations being the key importers.
- The hydroxychloroquine industry is a fragmented market with tough competition among the certified producers to supply HCQ to the developed markets.
- Currently, the prices of raw materials of HCQ are declining. With no supply-demand crunch, the prices of raw materials are expected to stabilize in the future.
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