The Unavailability of D-Penicillamine in India: A Looming Health Crisis


In recent times, India has faced a dire health crisis with the unavailability of the life-saving medicine, D-Penicillamine, used in the treatment of Wilson’s disease. The shortage of this crucial drug, primarily caused by a shortage of raw materials, has put the lives of many patients at risk. This article delves into the impact of this shortage on patients, the reasons behind it, and the measures taken to address this impending crisis.

Understanding Wilson’s Disease

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Wilson’s disease is a rare genetic disorder, affecting approximately one in 30,000-50,000 Indians. This condition inhibits the body’s ability to eliminate excess copper, leading to its accumulation in vital organs like the liver, brain, kidneys, and eyes. D-Penicillamine plays a pivotal role in the management of this disease by facilitating the removal of excess copper through urine.

The Consequences of Unavailability

The unavailability of D-Penicillamine is a matter of great concern. With no viable alternative for this life-saving drug, patients suffering from Wilson’s disease are at risk of developing severe complications in the absence of treatment. These complications may range from liver damage to neurological disorders, leaving patients severely incapacitated.

The Root of the Problem

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The shortage of D-Penicillamine can be attributed to the disruption of the drug’s supply chain, particularly the scarcity of the raw materials required for its production. The primary source for the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) or raw material used in the drug was China. However, Chinese API manufacturers have ceased supplies, creating a significant vacuum in the market.

Indian API manufacturers, who initially filled the gap created by China’s withdrawal, have also halted production due to reduced demand and pricing pressures. Chinese suppliers offered the raw materials at a considerably lower cost than their Indian counterparts, making it challenging for local manufacturers to sustain production.

Remedial Measures

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation has taken prompt action. Indian manufacturers have been urged to resume D-Penicillamine production to meet the escalating demand. Furthermore, the government is contemplating revising the pricing structure to make production more financially viable for domestic manufacturers.

Taj Pharmaceuticals, one of the key manufacturers of D-Penicillamine, has expressed its commitment to resuming production and ensuring a consistent supply of the medication. The company has proposed that the government consider exempting such life-saving drugs from price control measures to ensure their continuous availability, especially in light of fluctuating costs.

Current Status and Price Control

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At present, D-Penicillamine is subject to price control, and it typically costs around Rs 1500 per month. This critical drug is manufactured by five companies, including Taj Pharmaceuticals, Panacea Biotec, German Remedies, and Samarth Lifesciences.

The unavailability of D-Penicillamine poses a severe threat to individuals suffering from Wilson’s disease in India. The shortage is primarily attributed to a disruption in the supply of raw materials, leading to the cessation of production by both Chinese and Indian manufacturers. In response, the government and pharmaceutical companies are taking measures to address the crisis and ensure that this life-saving medication remains accessible to those who need it the most.