COVID-19 | India to provide hydroxychloroquine to nations badly hit by virus; stock position could allow exports

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Hours after US President Donald Trump said that “there may be retaliation” if India does not agree to export hydroxychloroquine, India today said that its “first obligation is to ensure that there are adequate stocks of medicines” for its own people and added that “stock position could allow our companies to meet the export commitments that they had contracted”.

India has further said that hydroxychloroquine “will be kept in a licensed category” and its “demand position would be continuously monitored”. Further, India has decided to provide paracetamol and hydroxycholoroquine “in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries”and “to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic”.

“Like any responsible government, our first obligation is to ensure that there are adequate stocks of medicines for the requirement of our own people. In order to ensure this, some temporary steps were taken to restrict exports of a number of pharmaceutical products,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

“In the meanwhile, a comprehensive assessment was made of possible requirements under different scenarios. After having confirmed the availability of medicines for all possible contingencies currently envisaged, these restrictions have been largely lifted. The DGFT has notified lifting restrictions on 14 drugs yesterday,” Srivastava said.

“With regard to paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), they will be kept in a licensed 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,” the MEA spokesperson added.

The Indian government has further said that given the enormity of the COVID19 pandemic, 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. In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, 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 MEA said.

Earlier, Trump had said that he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter. “I spoke to him Sunday morning, called him, and I said, we’d appreciate you allowing our supply to come out. If he doesn’t allow it to come out. That would be OK. But of course, there may be retaliation. Why wouldn’t there be,” Trump said.

While there is still no concrete scientific evidence of hydroxychloroquine being a cure for Covid-19, Trump has called it a “game-changer”. In India, the Indian Council of Medical Research or ICMR has recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating healthcare workers serving coronavirus patients. On March 25, India announced a hold on the medicine’s export, stating that exports would only be allowed only on “case-to case basis” on humanitarian grounds.

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