India ramps up hydroxychloroquine production, exports 50 million tablets to US

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India has ramped up its exports of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) amidst demand from the US and Europe as it is being touted one of the treatment drugs for coronavirus, though several side-effects have been noticed over its usage among patients. After allowing 60 drug makers in Uttarakhand to produce HCQ, an Indian source with direct knowledge of the exports said 50 million tablets have been exported to the US.

This month India said it would allow some exports of hydroxychloroquine after Trump touted it as a “game-changer” and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send supplies.

The trade, India’s biggest export of the drug to any country, follows a request by US President Donald Trump for New Delhi to release supplies of hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for the respiratory disease, reported Reuters.

The US Food and Drug Administration, the European Union’s drug regulator and the Canadian health department have cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine, citing side effects such as abnormal heart rhythms and a dangerously rapid heart rate.

However, the health warnings have done little to deter the drug’s imports to the United States, where some doctors are continuing to prescribe the drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, 68 new licenses have been issued to drug makers to manufacture hydroxychloroquine formulations, H.G. Koshia, commissioner, Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA), Gujarat, told Reuters. “Majority of these licenses are for exports,” he said.

“Nearly 60 pharmacy companies in Uttarakhand and 68 companies in Gujarat have gone into HCQ production, easing the requirements all over the globe. Majority of these licenses are for exports,” said H.G. Koshia, commissioner, Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA), Gujarat.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, IPCA Laboratories and Cadila Healthcare are among India’s leading suppliers of hydroxychloroquine.

“Pharma companies in Gujarat are continuing to produce and export hydroxychloroquine in large quantities,” IDMA’s Shah said.

The foreign ministry said India was continuing to supply hydroxychloroquine, and other essential medicines produced in India, to other countries. These supplies were taking place both on a humanitarian and a commercial basis. Cadila Healthcare recently said it was ramping up production tenfold to 30 metric tons per month. Sales of the decades-old treatment had soared overnight after Trump’s advocacy of the drug, raising questions whether political pressure had overridden scientific criteria in the crisis.

Indian pharmaceutical companies are raising monthly production of anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) four times to 40 metric tons (MT) by the end of this month and five to six times to over 70 metric tons (MT) by next month. The plan to step up production came after the Government of India indicated it will help countries in dire need of the drug to fight novel coronavirus, reported Business Today.

Peak capacity would produce 35 crore (350 million) tablets of 200 mg dosage every month. India’s own requirement is unlikely to exceed 10 crore tablets for which the government has already placed an order with leading domestic manufacturers Zydus Cadila and Ipca Laboratories. Industry experts say 10 crore tablets are good enough to treat seven crore people, if required. In India, HCQ costs less than Rs 3 per tablet.

Kenya also buys drugs from India

Kenya has joined the countries “repurposing” the banned anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine for emergency use ahead of mass testing for Covid-19.

The country has ordered a one-off consignment of 379,000 tablets of the hydroxychloroquine from India just three weeks after the Asian nation partially lifted a ban on the export of the drug.

The deal follows last week’s telephone conversation between Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary (CS) Raychelle Omamo and India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

“In keeping with excellent bilateral ties and as a special gesture, India has allowed one-time export of prohibited Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate USP 200 mg (379,000 tablets) to Kenya to support Government of Kenya in its fight against Covid-19 pandemic,” said a communique from the Indian government.


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