India to export hydroxychloroquine on case-by-case basis

New Delhi: India has decided to partially lift the ban on export of paracetamol and anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in sync with its global commitment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, officials said today.

On 25 March, India banned export of hydroxychloroquine in the midst of views in some quarters that the drug could be used to fight COVID-19. India is the largest exporter of the drug.

In a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, President Donald Trump sought supply of hydroxychloroquine to the US to treat coronavirus infected people.

On Monday, Trump warned India that the US may retaliate if it did not export hydroxychloroquine despite his personal request.

Hydroxychloroquine is an old and inexpensive drug used to treat malaria. India is the largest producer of the drug globally. Officials said India would export the drug on a case-by-case basis after meeting all the domestic requirements.

“India has always maintained that the international community must display strong solidarity and cooperation. This approach also guided our evacuation of nationals of other countries,” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said.

“In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, it has been decided that India would licence paracetamol and HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities,” he said.

The MEA spokesperson was responding to media queries on the issue. “We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic,” said Srivastava.

India is learnt to have received requests from at least 20 countries including its immediate neighbours Sri Lanka and Nepal for supply of hydroxychloroquine.

“Like any responsible government, our first obligation is to ensure that there are adequate stocks of medicines for the requirement of our own people,” the MEA spokesperson said.

In order to ensure this, he explained, some “temporary steps” were taken to restrict exports of a number of pharmaceutical products. He said a comprehensive assessment was carried out about possible requirements of various drugs under different scenarios.

“After having confirmed the availability of medicines for all possible contingencies currently envisaged, these restrictions have been largely lifted,” he said.

He said the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has notified lifting of restrictions on 14 drugs on Monday.

“With regard to paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine, they will be kept in a licensed category and their demand position would be continuously monitored,” Srivastava said.

“However, the stock position could allow our companies to meet the export commitments that they had contracted,” he added.