The Ministry of External Affairs said on Tuesday that the Centre has partially lifted the ban on export of some drugs and pharmaceuticals which can be used in treating Covid-19. The ministry said India has decided to export paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine in appropriate quantities “to neighbouring countries” on humanitarian grounds.
The ministry said that the position of the stock of paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine in India will allow Indian companies to export these drugs as per prior commitments. Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, is an experimental but unproved treatment for the coronavirus disease.
The ministry accused sections of the media of attempting to create “unnecessary controversy” over the matter. “Like any responsible government, our first obligation is to ensure that there are adequate stocks of medicines for the requirement of our own people,” the ministry said. “In order to ensure this, some temporary steps were taken to restrict exports of a number of pharmaceutical products.”
The ministry said that the availability of these medicines for all possible exigencies has been confirmed, and the restrictions on their exports have been subsequently lifted. “With regard to paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine [HCQ], they will be kept in a licensed category and their demand position would be continuously monitored,” the Ministry of External Affairs said.
The ministry said it discourages any attempt to speculate on the export of these drugs or to politicise the matter.
The Indian government had on March 26 put on hold the export of hydroxychloroquine to ensure that enough stocks were available in the market. However, on Monday, India allowed export of hydroxychloroquine on a “case to case” basis, in the face of mounting international pressure.
On Monday, United States President Donald Trump had warned India that it may face retaliation if it turns down American requests to supply hydroxychloroquine. The United States has emerged as the worst sufferer of the coronavirus pandemic, with over 3,67,000 cases, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University.
Later on Tuesday, the health ministry, in its daily press briefing, urged the media not to speculate when questioned about what led India to lift the suspension on the export of hydroxychloroquine. Joint Health Secretary Lav Agarwal said the pharma ministry was monitoring the production of the drug, and assured that the country has sufficient quantities for its needs.
Besides the US, a number of other countries also have approached India for the drug. Nearly half of the American supply of the drug comes from India.
India has 4,421 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of the morning of April 7, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. As many as 114 people have died.
Meanwhile, the Rajasthan government on Tuesday decided to return 25% of hydroxychloroquine tablets that it had acquired from distributors and stockists as regular patients who needed them were unable to get the drug in the market, PTI reported.