US-based public benefit drug manufacturing corporation Phlow has received $354m funding from the government to produce essential medicines at risk of shortage amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) also covers advanced manufacturing of drugs for potential Covid-19 treatment.

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Valued up to $812m, the contract involves a four-year base award of $354m and additional $458m as potential options for long-term sustainability.

Phlow is working with its partners Civica Rx, Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medicines for All Institute and AMPAC Fine Chemicals to produce chemical precursor ingredients and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).

The company also commenced the manufacture of finished dosage forms for more than 12 essential medicines to treat hospitalised patients with Covid-19-related illnesses. Most of these drugs are said to be in shortage, imported from foreign countries previously.

With government collaboration, Phlow and its partners could immediately deliver more than 1.6 million doses of five essential generic drugs to treat Covid-19 patients.

The medicines were delivered to the US Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), including drugs used for sedation to help patients who need ventilator support for pain management and essential antibiotics.

Phlow is also working towards the US’ first Strategic Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients Reserve (SAPIR), a long-term, national stockpile of key ingredients required to produce the most essential medicines in the country, intended to reduce the country’s dependency on international markets for its drug supply chain.

BARDA acting director Dr Gary Disbrow said: “BARDA has long focused on expanding pharmaceutical manufacturing infrastructure in the US, not only to develop and produce vaccines, but also for essential medicines, and their key ingredients used to make these drugs.

“Collaborating with Phlow and its partners is an important step in expanding our manufacturing of strategic APIs and critical medicines at-risk of shortage.”

More than 80% of APIs and chemical ingredients used to manufacture generics and over-the-counter drugs in the US come from abroad, with the majority from China and India.

The project could boost the US’ drug supply chain and address generic drug shortages in the country.

Phlow co-founder, president and CEO Eric Edwards said: “This advanced manufacturing capability will significantly fortify our nation’s pharmaceutical supply chain for critical medicines, including many required to treat patients hospitalised with Covid-19.”