Amid row over export of Hydroxychloroquine — the anti-malaria medicine approved as a prophylaxis — India has said that it “will supply essential drugs to some nations badly affected” by COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said given the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has always maintained that the international community must display strong solidarity and cooperation.
“In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, it has been decided that India would licence paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine 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. We would therefore discourage any speculation in this regard or any attempts to politicise the matter,” he said.
This comes on the heels of a request made by US President Donald Trump to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week to release the amount of Hydroxychloroquine ordered by his country to aid America’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 disease.
Government sources had earlier in the day said it has decided to partially lift a ban on hydroxychloroquine.
The Government will clear the existing orders immediately on humanitarian grounds. The Centre, sources said, will not ban but restrict the export of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol depending on the availability of stock after meeting domestic requirements.
The Ministry of External Affairs and pharma industry will decide on such allocations depending on the humanitarian crisis
President Trump at his daily news conference at the White House last Saturday, said that he spoke to Prime Minister Modi that day and made a request to release Hydroxycholoroquine for the US.
“I called Prime Minister Modi of India this morning. They make large amounts of Hydroxychloroquine. India is giving it a serious consideration,” Trump said.
“I think people should if it were me, in fact, I might do it anyway. I may take it, Ok? I may take it. And, I’ll have to ask my doctors about that, but I may take it”, while replying to a reporter.
The Government of India had on March 25 banned export of anti-malaria drug hydroxycloroquine, with immediate effect to ensure sufficient availability of the medicine in the domestic market. However, India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade, an arm of the commerce ministry which deals with export and import-related matters, said it will allow export of the medicine on humanitarian grounds on case-to-case basis on the Ministry of External Affairs’ recommendation.
Hydroxychloroquine has been approved by the national task force of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as a prophylaxis – a treatment to prevent a disease – for people at “high risk” of contracting COVID-19.
However, it is recommended only for a healthcare worker who is treating a COVID-19 patient. Secondly, it is recommended only for persons staying and caring for a household positive patient. They can take that only for ‘prophylaxis’, or prevention.
The treatment protocol recommended by the ICMR has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) for restricted use in emergency situations.
The US as of now has the highest number of the novel Coronavirus cases in the world, with over 367,000 cases of infections and over 10,800 deaths. Relatively, India has managed to contain the pandemic with 114 deaths and 4421 cases, accourding to the Health Ministry data.
The lifting of ban on export comes as the Donald Trump government through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on Monday announced $2.9 million to support India in its fight against the novel Coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
In a statement, the US embassy said this builds on a foundation of more than $1.4 billion in health assistance, and nearly $3 billion in total assistance, that the United States has provided to India over the last 20 years.
The newly announced assistance is part of a larger American global response package across multiple departments and agencies, including the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The US State Department had earlier said it is providing $2.9 million to help the Indian government prepare laboratory systems, activate case finding and event-based surveillance, and support technical experts for response and preparedness, and more.