New Delhi: President Donald Trump Saturday said he spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting India release US’ order of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), being touted as a possible cure for Covid-19.
“I called Prime Minister Modi of India this morning. They make large amounts of Hydroxychloroquine. India is giving it a serious consideration,” Trump said during his daily news conference at the White House.
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 lesser side-effects.
India had last month restricted the export of the drug to ensure sufficient domestic supply as the country sees sharp daily daily spikes in the number of coronavirus cases. Currently, over 3,030 cases have been reported, with over 70 deaths.
According to national drug availability and price watchdog, National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA), India can produce 20 crore tablets of HCQ every month. “If HCQ proves further relevance, its production can be jacked up,” Shubhra Singh, chairman, NPPA told ThePrint.
Demand for HCQ
US President Trump had called chloroquine a potential “game changer” for treating the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-COV-2, also commonly called Covid-19. In the US currently, over 8,000 people have died while there are around 2.88 lakh active cases.
Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) partially lifted a three-year-old ‘import alert’ on the Mumbai-based drug firm Ipca Laboratories to import the medicine.
Ahemedabad-based Zydus Cadila also received a “sizeable” order from the US for the drug.
Apart from the US, the two firms have also been receiving queries from buyers around the globe for chloroquine and the compounds used to manufacturing it, known as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).
Cadila’s spokesperson had earlier told ThePrint that the company can “even quadruple capacities if need be as we are fully integrated to produce both API and finished dose formulation. We believe that we will be able to cater to the requirements as we are among the few companies in the world who have capabilities to manufacture the drug in large quantities.”
However, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry on 25 March restricted the export of the drug, but allowed the export of “certain shipments on humanitarian grounds” on a case-by-case basis.
Also read: Hoarding chloroquine won’t cure coronavirus
Potential game changer
Based to some earlier studies, chloroquine has strong anti-viral effects on the coronavirus infection of primate cells.
One study showed that chloroquine interferes with “terminal glycosylation of the cellular receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2”, which may negatively influence the virus-receptor binding and terminate the infection.
Entreprenuer Elon Musk had also tweeted that chloroquine was “maybe worth considering” as a potential treatment.
A US-based non-profit organisation, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), approved up to $50 million funding for a randomised clinical trial to test if HCQ can prevent Covid-19 infections in healthcare workers.