New Delhi: Flooded with requests for hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that has been touted as a potential "game-changer" for Covid-19 patients by US President Donald Trump, India on Tuesday decided to relax the complete ban placed on its export on Saturday.
The decision for export of hydroxychloroquine as well as paracetamol will be made on a case-by-case basis, after ensuring India has enough for its own domestic needs, government officials said.
The Directorate General of Foreign Trade had issued a notification on April 4, putting a complete prohibition on the export of hydroxychloroquine and its formulations, changing its March order that had allowed a case-by-case look at the export of the drug. This order will now be revised to put it under the licenced category.
Announcing the reversal in position, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “With regard to paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), they will be kept in a licenced category and their demand position would be continuously monitored. However, the stock position could allow our companies to meet the export commitments that they had contracted.”
India is one of the world's largest manufacturers of the anti-malarial drug and according to the Indian Drug Manufacturer's association, it has enough capacity to cater to both global and local markets.
Many virologists and infectious disease experts have cautioned that the excitement over hydroxychloroquine is premature, as there have been no complete clinical trials to see how the dug behaves in patients.
Sources told News 18 that the Department of Pharmaceuticals and the Ministry of External Affairs will decide on such allocations depending on humanitarian (Covid-19) situation in the country that seeks the drugs from India.
The decision is believed to have been taken at the highest level after Prime Minister Narendra Modi got calls from US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, both requesting supplies of hydroxychloroquine.
Hours before the decision was announced, the US President had threatened India with retaliation if the exports were not allowed to America. In a press briefing, he said that when he spoke with PM Modi on the phone over the weekend.
“I’d appreciate if he allows our supplies to come out. If he doesn’t allow it to come out it would be okay but of course there would be retaliation, why wouldn’t there be?” He also once alleged that “for many years they’ve (India) taken advantage of US on trade” but added that “India does very well with the United States.”
The MEA spokesperson also pointed out that – “it has been decided that India would licence paracetamol and HCQ in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities. We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic.”
The DG, Foreign Trade had issued a list of 14 drugs on Monday against which the restrictions were lifted. This included Neomycin, Erythromycin, Tinidazole, Metronidazole, Acyclovir, Vitamin Bs, Progestrone and some other formulations.