Story at a glance

  • Nearly half of the American supply of hydroxychloroquine, touted by the president as a possible treatment for the coronavirus, came from India last year.
  • After India prohibited all exports of the drug and its formulation, President Trump asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release supplies to the United States.
  • India is now allowing limited exports of the drug to some nations, including its neighbors.

India will lift its export ban on the drug President Trump has touted as a potential treatment for the coronavirus, despite a lack of clinical evidence.  


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“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,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava. “We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic.”

Nearly half of the American supply of hydroxychloroquine, or chloroquine for short, came from India in 2019 and was threatened after India restricted its export on April 4. President Trump asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the release of shipments the U.S. had already ordered and said at a press conference on Monday India could face retaliation if it didn’t lift the ban.


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The FDA has authorized emergency use of the drug for certain hospitalized patients, but evidence of its success is anecdotal. Studies conducted in France and China that suggest the drug can be used to treat coronavirus patients have not been peer reviewed and consist of sample sizes of just 30 to 36 patients. Meanwhile, a preprint published in a French medical journal claims there is no evidence of rapid antiviral clearance or clinic benefit with the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in patients with severe COVID-19 infection.  

Still demand for the drug has shot up in the United States, leading to shortages for those who depend on the drug as a treatment for other diseases including malaria and lupus.  

India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade also announced on April 6 it would lift restrictions on the export of 24 pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines made from them that includes several antibiotics, such as tinidazole and erythromycin, the hormone progesterone and Vitamin B12.


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Published on Apr 07, 2020