India lifts ban on hydroxychloroquine under pressure from Trump

indica News Bureau-


US President Donald Trump on Monday warned India of retaliation if the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is not supplied to the US. Right after Trump’s statement, the Indian government said that India will be supplying essential drugs to neighboring countries and those that are badly affected by the pandemic.

India is the biggest manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that is being touted as ‘game-changer’ in the fight against COVID-19 and is being aggressively sought by US President Donald Trump, The Hindu reported.

“The country has the capacity to quickly ramp up the output of hydroxychloroquine,” the report said.

India manufactures 70 percent of the world’s supply of hydroxychloroquine, according to Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) secretary-general Sudarshan Jain.

It was considered by some a key plank in India’s battle against coronavirus. On Saturday, the Indian government announced it was banning the export of various drugs which could potentially help patients diagnosed with Covid-19.

Stockpiles of medicines, including hydroxychloroquine – an anti-malaria drug being tested as an unlikely but potential treatment – were to be kept in the country to ensure there was enough to deal with the emergency.

The country has a production capacity of 40 tones of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) every month, implying 20 crore tablets of 200 mg each. And since the drug is also used for auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, manufacturers have good production capacities that can also be ramped up.

Ipca Laboratories, Zydus Cadila and Wallace Pharmaceuticals are top pharma companies manufacturing HCQ in India.

Jain says the production capacity is sufficient to meet the current demand and if the need arises, the companies are committed to ramping up production.

After apparent pressure from Trump India has approved some exports of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug being touted as a possible coronavirus treatment. President Trump warned India that the US may retaliate if India did not export anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine despite his personal request to Prime Minister Modi over a phone call. Trump said he would be surprised if New Delhi did not relent as it has good relations with Washington.  “I don’t like that decision, I didn’t hear that that was his decision. I know that he stopped it for other countries. I spoke to him yesterday, we had a very good talk and we’ll see whether or not that’s his (decision)…For many years, they’ve been taking advantage of the US on trade. So I would be surprised if that were his decision. He’d (Modi) have to tell me that. I spoke to him Sunday morning, called him, and I said, we’d appreciate you allowing our supply to come out. If he (Modi) doesn’t allow it to come out, that would be ok. But of course, there may be retaliation. Why wouldn’t there be,” the US President said.

According to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, the U.S. has so far reported 368,449 cases with 10,993 deaths. India, on the other hand, has so far confirmed 4,858 pandemic cases with 136 deaths.

According to a report in India Today, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. We would therefore discourage any speculation in this regard or any attempts to politicize the matter.”

The tablets are used to prevent and treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis but over the past week the US president has been aggressively promoting the drug as a treatment for coronavirus, despite there being no conclusive medical evidence to prove its efficacy.

In recent days, Trump has developed a public obsession with hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for coronavirus, boasting that the US had already stockpiled 29m doses of the drug. The basis for the president’s proclamations of the drug as a “game changer” is a study carried out by a group of scientists in March, but the results have been openly dismissed by experts and major medical bodies.