New Delhi: India is considering positively US President Donald Trump’s request for a shipment of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), along with a few other countries, two days after it imposed a complete ban on the export of the drug.
ThePrint has learnt that India is considering requests from Brazil and a few SAARC countries apart from the US under contingency measures.
On 25 March, India’s trade regulator, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), had issued an order restricting the export of hydroxychloroquine to a ‘case-to-case’ basis as other countries increased their demand for shipments. Sources say some of the exports will likely resume as per this criteria.
President Trump, who has long held HCQ as a game-changer in the fight against the novel coronavirus Covid-19, Saturday said he spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting a shipment although the US has “millions of millions of doses of it”. Trump added that Modi is “giving it a serious consideration”.
India is a leading global player in the manufacturing of HCQ with Ipca laboratories, Zydus Cadila, Wallace Pharmaceuticals and Cipla as top pharma companies. A derivative of chloroquine, HCQ has fewer side-effects.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration Monday said it has granted $2.9 million to India through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to support the Covid-19 efforts, according to a press release issued by the US Embassy in New Delhi.
Also read: Hydroxychloroquine, Trump’s prescription for Covid-19, gets tougher to buy in India
How India could supply HCQ
According to top official sources, while the government is “mulling over the issue” and is “weighing several options” to send the drug to some of the “friendly countries”, it will first take stock of the domestic demands for the drugs.
India currently has a “sufficient” supply despite the high demand in many countries, where a shortage has resulted in them not being able to provide it to even doctors and nurses dealing with Covid-19 cases, sources said.
The government is believed to be considering two options.
First, it may tweak the DGFT notification issued on 4 April banning the export of HCQ and allow it to countries on a “case-to-case basis” as a “special case”. The decision will be taken by the Ministry of External Affairs in consultation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, sources said.
Second, India may honour only those requests made by countries before the 4 April notification. This would mean countries that made the request between 25 March and 4 April will get their shipment.
In the 25 March notification, the DGFT did make allowances for exceptional cases, one of which was to allow it on a “case-to-case basis on the recommendations of the Ministry of External Affairs”.
According to sources, some of the countries who sent in requests before 4 April are upset with the “sudden step” to ban exports without informing them.
Some countries have even cited India’s sudden issuing of the 4 April notification as a violation of global trading norms under World Trade Organisation (WTO).
A decision on this will be taken soon by the PMO along with the key ministries, sources added.
Also read: Use hydroxychloroquine with caution: ICMR warns amid confusion over use of drug for Covid-19