New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has decided to partially lift the ban on the export of two key drugs, hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol, to clear “all existing orders”, ThePrint has learnt.
The move comes two days after US President Donald Trump requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an urgent supply of the drug. Trump Monday said he was unaware that the export of hydroxychloroquine was banned by India and that he didn’t “like that decision”.
According to sources, a decision has now been taken by the Modi government to “restrict” the export of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol, while allowing the shipment of all other medicines under the ‘free’ category on which a ban was imposed last month.
The export of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol will be now taken up on a “case-to-case basis, depending on the availability of stock after meeting domestic requirements,” said a source.
“All existing orders will be cleared. The Ministry of External Affairs and Department of Pharma will decide on such allocations depending on humanitarian (COVID) situation,” the source added.
The decision means India will now honour all those orders it has received in the past few weeks from countries such as the US, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Israel, the UK, Australia and the Gulf countries, among others.
The decision to partially lift the ban on hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol was taken late Monday even as the export of all other key medicines like tinidazole, metronidazole, erythromycin salts, vitamins and others were lifted.
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“With regard to paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), they will be kept in a licensed category and their demand position would be continuously monitored. However, the stock position could allow our companies to meet the export commitments that they had contracted,” said Anurag Srivastava, Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, Tuesday.
Srivastava added that “in view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, 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. We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. We would therefore discourage any speculation in this regard or any attempts to politicise the matter.”
The government had put a blanket ban on all these medicines, including hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol, on 4 April.
‘There may be retaliation’
Meanwhile, the US President Donald Trump said Monday if India did not allow the export of hydroxychloroquine then “there may be retaliation”.
Speaking of the blanket ban that was earlier imposed by India, especially on hydroxychloroquine, Trump said he had a phone conversation with Modi Sunday when he was not told that there was a ban on the export of hydroxychloroquine.
“I don’t like that decision. I didn’t hear that was his decision. I would be surprised if that was his decision. He would have to tell me that,” Trump said.
President Trump, who has long held hydroxychloroquine as a game-changer in the fight against the novel coronavirus, had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday, requesting a shipment to be sent to the US even as he said his country has “millions of millions of doses of it”.
Trump added that Modi was “giving it a serious consideration”.
“If he doesn’t allow it to come out, that would be OK, but of course there may be retaliation, why wouldn’t that be,” he said.
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.
“India has long been a significant partner of the United States and the pharmaceutical sector. It’s one of our top imports from India in 2018. India is obviously one of the world’s leaders in the supply of generic drugs. It represents a significant portion of the precursor pharmaceuticals that supply the U.S. market,” said Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, US State Department.
“And so we expect this kind of cooperation to continue, and as India analyzes what it needs for its domestic market and as we seek to grow the volume of drugs and PPE that are available both in the United States and also globally to respond to COVID.”
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