India has ramped up its exports of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) amidst demand from the US and Europe as it is being touted one of the treatment drugs for coronavirus, though severalside-effects have been noticed over its usage among patients. After allowing 60 drug makers in Uttarakhand to produce HCQ, an Indian source with direct knowledge of the exports said 50 million tablets have been exported to the US.
India’s export of the drug follows a request by US President Donald Trump for New Delhi to release supplies of hydroxychloroquine in March, despite restrictions and even sparking off a diplomatic embarrassment for New Delhi. Trump in his briefings warned that halting shipments would result in diplomatic retaliation. India eased restrictions and clarified that shipments would be sent as per the agreement.
Nearly 60 pharma companies in Uttarakhand and 68 companies in Gujarat have gone into HCQ production, easing the requirements all over the globe. Majority of these licences are for exports, said H.G. Koshia, commissioner, Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA), Gujarat.
“It amounts to 50 million tablets… Commercial companies are pursuing. It’s ongoing,” reports Reuters quoting a source, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of discussions with the United States. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, IPCA Laboratories and Cadila Healthcare are among India’s leading suppliers of hydroxychloroquine. Cadila alone has ramped up production tenfold to 30 metric tonnes per month to meet the demand.
However, the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Union’s drug regulator and the Canadian health department have cited side effects of the drug including abnormal heart rhythms and a dangerously rapid heart rate, which have done little to the US, which is using the drug for the treatment of COVID-19 as no other drug is available. Already, the US coronavirus death toll has reached 63,746 as of Thursday – the highest in the world.
“There is high demand for hydroxychloroquine in the international market including US,” Viranchi Shah, senior vice-president, Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA). Ever since Trump touted the drug as a “game changer” and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send supplies, sales of the decades-old treatment had soared overnight despite medical reasoning not to use the drug for every case of coronavirus.
The foreign ministry said India was continuing to supply hydroxychloroquine and other essential medicines both on humanitarian grounds and for commercial ties.