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Trump, Modi and hydroxychloroquine, and why India partially lifted ban on the drug’s export

In episode 438 of #CutTheClutter, Shekhar Gupta traces the chronology of events in India and US that led to partial lifting of ban on export of hydroxychloroquine.

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New Delhi: India has partially lifted the ban on hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to fight malaria and which is now being used in Covid-19 treatments. This came shortly after US President Donald Trump threatened to retaliate against India if it did not lift the ban. Trump said he asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow export of hydroxychloroquine in an earlier phone call and he would be surprised if Modi didn’t allow it. At the same time, US has banned the supply of medical good to other countries.

Also read: Indian-American owned pharma firm donates 3.4 M hydroxychloroquine tablets to key US states

Hydroxychloroquine and US 

Trump’s daily press conference takes place around 3 am IST, where he talks about the coronavirus crisis and answers questions on it. On 19 March, Trump mentioned hydroxychloroquine for the first time. Director of National Institute on Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, who was with him at the time, said there is anecdotal evidence of hydroxychloroquine working against coronavirus. 

On 20 March, Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo mentioned the used of hydroxychloroquine in fighting Covid-19 and America placed orders for the drug with Indian companies following these events.

India and Hydroxchloroquine

Then, on 22 March, ICMR asked health personnel and suspected cases to take hydroxychloroquine as prophylactic. After this announcement people started buying this drug, creating a shortage. On 25 March, hydroxychloroquine was put in schedule H1 category of drugs in India, which means the drug was much harder to get. 

India is the largest producer of hydroxychloroquine as the drug is commonly used to treat malaria which is widespread in India. However, since China wasn’t able to supply ingredients for this drug, it looked like there would be a shortage of it in India. This resulted in the government banning the export of the drug on 22 March. 

On 4 April, Trump disclosed that he talked to Modi about lifting the ban. He said that it was about the orders the US had placed before the ban and Modi has promised to release those orders. President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro had also made a similar request to Modi. At 4.15 am on 6 April, Trump said he would retaliate against India if it did not lift this ban. 

On 6 April itself, ThePrint, Mint & The Hindu reported that India will partially lift the ban on the export of hydroxychloroquine. It seems like this came due to Trump’s threat of retaliation, but the decision must have been made earlier as there was no time between the two events. Secondly, the ban has been lifted on the export of drugs ordered before the ban was in place. Hence, it seems like Trump’s threat and India’s decision are not connected. 

Watch the latest episode of CTC here:

Also read: Is coronavirus mutating in India? If yes, how? CSIR starts genetic sequencing to find out


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  1. The humanitarian conditions in mind any country will help the other one as much as possible. But threatening at this juncture is not agreeable. The supply should be effected but also with a reprimand.

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