Covid-19: India approves supply of hydroxychloroquine to 55 countries as commercial sales or grants
The Indian government has so far approved the supply of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, either as commercial sales or as grants, to 55 countries as part of the efforts to fight the global Covid-19 pandemic, people familiar with developments said on Thursday.
India, the largest producer of hydroxychloroquine, initially banned exports of the drug on March 25 and further tightened rules on April 4 to bar exports from special economic zones (SEZs), where such bans don’t apply. The rules were partially eased to allow the export of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol after meeting all domestic requirements.
“Supplies to 55 countries have been approved so far, including commercial sales to 21 countries, while the rest will get small quantities as grants,” one of the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
“India has come to be recognised as a reliable global supplier of medicines during this humanitarian crisis, and we have reached out to many countries,” the person said.
Several countries in India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood, such as the Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles, have been provided the drug as part of grants. Several of these countries are dependent on India’s pharmaceutical industry to meet their needs.
The exports were allowed only after a stock-taking by an empowered committee comprising representatives of the department of pharmaceuticals, the health and external affairs ministries, Indian Council of Medical Research, and the drug controller.
“We have to meet domestic requirements, create a buffer over and above that and the surplus can be exported,” a second person said.
There were 13 countries, including the US, Brazil and Israel, in the first list of nations for which exports were approved and most of the supplies had been despatched. Supplies are currently being sent to countries that were on a second list, the people said.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was on a third list of countries that was approved on Wednesday and the West Asian state is currently completing the paperwork for the exports, the people added.
More requests for hydroxychloroquine are expected and will be put up to the empowered committee. “It is now more or less a well-oiled system that is able to take decisions fairly quickly after assessing domestic requirements,” the second person said.
Among the 55 countries for which exports have been approved are neighbouring states such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, African countries such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, Niger, Mali, and Republic of Congo, and European nations such as France, the Netherlands and the UK.
Other countries for which exports have been cleared are Armenia, Kazakhstan, Ecuador, Jamaica, Syria, Ukraine, Oman, Colombia and the Bahamas.
Meanwhile, India supplied half million hydroxychloroquine tablets and 12 tonnes of life-saving medicines to Mauritius late on Wednesday.
This was the first consignment of Covid-19-related medical supplies provided to Mauritius, whose vice prime minister, Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, received the consignment ferried by a special Air India cargo flight.