Chandler drug firm now bracing for the virus fight SanTan Sun News

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Chandler drug firm now bracing for the virus fight

Chandler drug firm now bracing for the virus fight
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Viraj Gandhi thinks the completion of his drug manufacturing facility in Chandler comes at a perfect time as Arizona braces for a potential health care crisis.
His company, Medivant Health Care, plans to start producing generic drugs next month in a new facility near Kyrene Road and Chandler Boulevard in West Chandler.
Phase one of the facility will employ about 30 workers to produce up to 40,000 vials of medicine to be sold to local hospitals and medical providers.
Though the facility’s been in the works for more than a year, Gandhi said the timing of its opening comes at a moment when hospitals could see a spike in demand for basic drugs.
As more Americans continue to test positive for the COVID-19 virus, doctors are bracing for the prospect of overwhelmed emergency rooms and empty medicine cabinets.
But long before the term “coronavirus” was ever spoken by public health officials, the nation’s health care network was already grappling with an ongoing drug shortage and Gandhi was looking for a way to fix it.
“The problem in the U.S. has been there has been no real addition of pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in the last 20 years,” Gandhi said.
A report released last year by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration determined the country had a limited supply of at least 160 drugs – 67 of which had generic versions on the market.
Complex supply chains have made it harder for manufacturers to meet the industry’s demand, the FDA report concluded, because so many companies have moved their operations offshore to countries like India or China.
Not having an abundant supply of these drugs could have catastrophic impacts on the quality of health care by delaying treatments or resorting to less effective medication, the report said.
Since the median price of these limited drugs is less than $9, Gandhi didn’t understand why more manufacturers weren’t producing cheaper drugs.
He had grown up in the pharmaceutical industry and knew all the costs associated with testing, producing, and distributing drugs. Yet, it baffled Gandhi such a rich country like the United States had a major gap in its drug supply.
“Imagine if you cannot give basic antibiotics and basic drugs to patients – why go to a hospital then?” he said.
Lidocaine, a numbing medication, is one drug with supply issues in the U.S. for several years due to manufacturing issues.
The big pharmaceutical companies are not interested in producing drugs like lidocaine, Gandhi said, because they know it probably won’t yield a huge profit margin.
But Gandhi said he’s not interested in earning billions in revenue, which is why he was willing to invest at least $10 million to build his own manufacturing site.
And this type of project is no easy task. There are lots of regulations, a limited pool of trained labor, and an uncertain supply of water.
Drug manufacturers need lots of clean water to make their products and Arizona doesn’t have the best reputation for having sterile supply. Thankfully, there’s technology and equipment filtering Medivant’s water resources, Gandhi said.
More importantly, Medivant will be able to respond to the needs of doctors, Gandhi said, which will be valuable during a time when a pandemic is hanging over the health care community.
In response to the coronavirus, Gandhi said Medivant will be manufacturing at least four generic drugs to help treat cardiac disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned – individuals with heart issues are especially vulnerable to contracting the COVID-19 virus. Because the coronavirus weakens the immune system, those with chronic health conditions are not as strong to ward off the virus.
If this pandemic does get any worse, Gandhi said at least local hospitals will have another source for some medications. But the entire industry will need more manufacturers in the future to fix the underlying problem, he said.
The handful of generic drugs Medivant will produce won’t even “scratch the surface” at filling the nation’s gap, Gandhi added.
“It’s not even a drop in the ocean,” he said. “We’re barely making a difference.”

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