The government of India had banned the export of hydroxychloroquine back on 25 March as the global demand for the anti-malaria drug surged. Many nations have reported that the anti-malaria drug is showing promises in the treatment of coronavirus infected patients.
After US President Donald Trump advocated for the drug, the global demand had surged. However, Indian doctors have already been using the drug to treat coronavirus infections and the ICMR had recommended the use of hydroxy-chloroquine for high-risk cases, as a preventive measure against COVID-19.
The commerce ministry notification on 25 March had banned the export of the drug except on humanitarian grounds on a case to case basis if approved by the Ministry of External Affairs. The notification, however, stated that exports from SEZ/EOU units may be allowed to fulfil export obligations and in cases where an advance export license has been issued before the notification.
US President Donald Trump had yesterday stated in his White House address that he had requested PM Modi to allow the export of a specific order of hydroxychloroquine tablets.
Soon after the 25 March notification by the Commerce Ministry, the SAARC nations, UAE and Indonesia had requested the Indian government to lift the ban on the export of the drug. Many nations around the world are facing an acute shortage of drugs as the world grapples with the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
As per reports, apart from SAARC nations, Indonesia UAE and USA, many Latin American and European nations have also requested India to lift the export ban and allow the export of the drug to their respective countries. As many as 30 nations have reportedly requested India to lift the export ban on the drug.
As per a report on the Economic Times, on 27 March, the Department of Pharmaceuticals had asked India’s drug prices regulator to examine if India has enough stocks to fulfil domestic demand as meet export demand as well.
The SAARC nations had reportedly also requested for paracetamol, vitamins, certain hormones and medical equipment.
However, after due consideration, the Ministry of Commerce had on 4 April notified that the ban on the export of hydroxychloroquine will now be absolute and will not be allowed under any circumstances until further notification.
The new notification reads: “The export of hydroxychloroquine, and formulations made from hydroxychloroquine falling under any ITCHS code, including the ITCHS codes mentioned in the notification number 54 dated 25 March 2020, is no longer allowed SEZs/EOUs or any Advanced Authorisation or under the para 1.05(b) of Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20 or against full advanced payment as specified under para 2 of the notification. The export of hydroxychloroquine, and formulations made from hydroxychloroquine, therefore, shall remain prohibited, without any exception.
It is notable here that India is the largest producer of hydroxychloroquine and its formulations in the world. As the global demand surges, the international pressure on India to lift export ban can be expected to increase. But India’s huge population and the rapidly increasing COVID-19 positive cases in India may prevent India from allowing export under current circumstances.