United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s earlier decision to ban the export of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. The drug is believed by many to be effective in the treatment of the novel coronavirus.
This came a day after Trump had warned India that it may face retaliation if it turns down American requests to supply hydroxychloroquine. Hours after that, the Ministry of External Affairs rescinded the earlier ban and said India will export paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine in appropriate quantities to “nations who have been particularly badly affected” by the coronavirus pandemic. The restrictions had been in place for all of two days.
“We are in a great shape from the medicine standpoint,” Trump told Fox News in an interview. “By the way, the hydroxychloroquine...we have millions of doses that I bought for the country. We have more than 29 million doses. I spoke to Prime Minister Modi, a lot of it [hydroxychloroquine] comes out of India. I asked him if it would be okay to release it? He was great. He was really good.”
The president then said India stopped export of the drug as they wanted it for themselves. “But there is a lot of good things coming from that,” he said. “Lot of people looking at it and saying, you know I don’t hear bad stories, I hear good stories. And I don’t hear anything where it was causing death. So it is not something like...You know we are doing vaccines. Johnson and Johnson, they need to test the drug.”
Trump said hydroxychloroquine has been in the market for decades and has worked well for patients.
Several Opposition leaders had criticised the Narendra Modi government for the quick capitulation in the face of a veiled threat by Trump.
Use of hydroxychloroquine has soared as the United States has quickly become the epicenter of the pandemic. The country recorded 1,939 deaths on Tuesday, taking the toll to 12,722.
India produces nearly half of the global supply of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that is one of the experimental means being used to fight the coronavirus. The Indian Council of Medical Research has, with caveats, authorised physicians to use the drug as a potential preventive measure for Covid-19. This has pushed up the demand for the drug.
The health ministry, in its daily press briefing on Tuesday, had 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 had added that the pharma ministry was monitoring the production of the drug, and assured that the country has sufficient quantities for its needs.