In the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry led by Union Minister Piyush Goyal has banned the export of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and its formulations. The drug has been showing promise as a potential treatment for the COVID-19 infection.
The order came soon after PM Modi’s announcement of a 21-day nationwide lockdown in India starting 25 March from 12.00 am. The Commerce Ministry has, however, mentioned that export on humanitarian grounds on case to case basis approved by the Ministry of External Affairs may be allowed. Also, exports from SEZ/EOU units may be allowed to fulfil export obligations and in cases where advance export licese has been issued before the notification.
The letter by the ministry has also stated that shipments, where an Irrevocable Letter of Credit has already been issued before the notification will be allowed.
India is one of the largest producers of Hydroxychloroquine, the finished drug and its other pharmaceutical components.
It is notable here that there are many reports in international media and journals highlighting that the drug has been proven effective in COVID-19 treatment. Recently, US President Donald Trump had asked US hospitals to start stockpiling the drug.
China, South Korea and many other nations have been using Hydroxychloroquine as a treatment against COVID-19 infections. Indian hospitals have been using it too.
Recently, the National Task Force COVID-19 constituted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had recommended the use of hydroxy-chloroquine for high-risk cases, as a preventive measure against COVID-19.
In an advisory issued by the department, asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases have been advised to be placed under chemoprophylaxis with Hydroxychloroquine.