India plays US' friend in need, allows hydroxychloroquine export to fight covid3 min read . Updated: 06 Apr 2020, 10:06 PM IST
- US President Trump had requested Modi to allow export of anti-malarial drug, thought to be effective against the virus
- India had banned export of several key drugs last month as the source of a lot of bulk drugs used in them is China
NEW DELHI: Paying heed to US President Donald Trump’s call, India on Monday decided to allow export of hydroxychloroquine -- a drug seen as key in the treatment of the covid-19 pandemic -- on a “case by case" basis. It also allowed the export of paracetamol, a popular antipyretic, as well as some more drugs.
The decision follows a telephone conversation between Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday. Besides the US, a number of other countries also have approached India to export hydroxychloroquine. Nearly half of US's supply of the drug, which as such is prescribed against malaria, comes from India.
At his White House briefing on covid-19 in the US, Trump said, “After the call today (Saturday) with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is giving serious consideration to releasing the hold it put on a US order for hydroxychloroquine."
“India makes a lot of it. They need a lot too for their billion-plus people. The hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug, will be released through the strategic national stockpile for treatment," he had said.
“I said I would appreciate it if they would release the amounts that we ordered," he added, warning that the next two weeks would be “very, very deadly."
Two government officials familiar with the matter said that the Committee of Secretaries headed by Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba gave its green signal to the lifting of the ban – albeit with certain conditions attached. These were domestic availability and sufficient stocks of the drugs for people at home, the situation in the covid-19-affected country and India’s ties with countries to which the drugs will be exported to, one of two officials cited above said.
The second official said that this decision had received the “all clear" and could be implemented soon.
The export of some other drugs, restricted by India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) last month, had also been cleared, the official said.
DGFT had last month tightened controls over the exports of 13 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), including paracetamol, certain vitamins and antibiotics, and formulations made by them as the covid-19 epidemic in China was seen affecting their supply. This meant that companies planning to export these products would have had to secure a no-objection certificate from the government.
Separately, the government had also banned the export of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug which has been repurposed for treatment of covid-19. Drug regulators across the world have been approving the use of hydroxychloroquine as prophylaxis based on anecdotal evidence despite concerns of its adverse impact on cardiac patients. The treatment has been approved due to the health emergency caused by the novel virus, which has no known cure.
The number of infections due to covid-19 worldwide is inching towards the 1.3 million mark with more than 70,000 deaths. In the US, the worst affected currently by covid-19, infection numbers are headed towards the 340,000 mark with the death toll at over 9,600, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University’s live tracker of the disease. New York is the epicenter of the outbreak in the US with more than 3,000 deaths. In India, the number of active cases is at 3,851 with 111 deaths.
An Indian readout of the telephone conversation between Modi and Trump said: “Stressing on the special relationship between the two countries, the Prime Minister reiterated India’s solidarity with the US in overcoming this global crisis together. The two leaders agreed to deploy the full strength of the India–US partnership to resolutely and effectively combat COVID-19."
Ties between India and the US have warmed rapidly over the past two decades with an increasing congruence of strategic interests from terrorism emanating from Pakistan to peace in the Indo-Pacific region. In February, India hosted President Trump for a three-city 36-hour visit, laying out the red carpet for the occasion.