India has lifted the temporary ban imposed on the export of anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol in appropriate quantities to neighbouring nations that are most affected by COVID-19 pandemic.
Anurag Srivastava, MEA spokesperson said in a statement that India has decided to license the export of paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in appropriate quantities to all neighbouring countries that are dependent on India, in the view of humanitarian aspects of the pandemic. Srivastava stated that India will also be supplying the drugs to nations, which have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic.
The statement noted that as a responsible government, India’s first obligation is to ensure that there is an adequate supply of the medicines for the requirement of its people and to ensure the same, India had restricted the export of the medicines. However, after confirming the availability of the medicines for all possible situations, India decided to largely lift the restriction on the export of the medicines.
Besides this, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) lifted restrictions imposed on 14 drugs on April 6, 2020. Hydroxychloroquine and Paracetamol will continue to be kept in the licensed category and their demand will be monitored.
India restricts sale, export, distribution of Hydroxychloroquine
The Union Health Ministry issued a notification on March 16, 2020 restricting the sale and distribution of “Hydroxychloroquine”. The Ministry has also banned the export of the anti-malarial drug.
The Health Ministry has directed that the sale by retail of any preparation containing the Hydroxychloroquine drug shall have to be in accordance with the conditions specified for sale of drugs under Schedule H1 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
The ‘Hydroxychloroquine’ drug is stated to be an essential drug to meet the requirements to tackle the emergency arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the drug is in short supply. Hence, the centre issued the order restricting the sale and distribution of Hydroxychloroquine to prevent its misuse.
India bans export of hydroxychloroquine
The Indian government banned the export of hydroxychloroquine on March 25, 2020 with immediate effect. The anti-malarial drug is expected to be effective in treating COVID-19 patients through clinical trials have not been conducted yet. According to the Commerce Ministry, the exports will only be allowed to special economic zones, to fulfil prior obligations or for humanitarian efforts by the government.
What is Hydroxychloroquine?
Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug, which is used to prevent and treat malaria infections. It treats malaria by killing the parasites that cause the disease. The drug is also used with other medications to treat auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus when other medications cannot be used.
Why is Hydroxychloroquine important?
ICMR’s National Task Force has recommended the use of Hydroxychloroquine to treat high-risk coronavirus cases such as asymptomatic healthcare workers, who are involved in the care of suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases and asymptomatic household contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The Hydroxychloroquine drug was reported to be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 infection during the clinical studies. US President Trump had touted the drug as a potential weapon to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.