Government officials and chemists in many states on Wednesday said that there is no shortage of hydroxychloroqine, the drug believed to be effective against the novel coronavirus, the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday. India on Wednesday allowed limited export of the drug after United States President Donald Trump threatened to retaliate if they were not given quantities of it.
Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd, the state’s medicine and medical equipment procurement agency, told the Hindustan Times that they have enough stock of hydroxychloroquine. “We have got 1.2 million [12 lakh] tablets last week and we placed the order for another five lakh that we will get next week,” the company’s Managing Director Dr SR Dileep Kumar said. “There is no shortage.”
However, the drug is unavailable at many retail medical outlets due to panic buying. The Kerala health department has asked medical shops to supply the tablets only to people who come with prescriptions.
In Jaipur in Rajasthan, a resident told the newspaper that stocks at medical shops have run out over the last 15 days. Ritesh Sharma, 44, has rheumatoid arthritis, for which he needs the drug.
The shortage had last week prompted the Rajasthan government to issue an order to acquire all stocks of hydroxychloroquine from stockists, wholesalers and retailers. Only 25% of the stock was later returned to pharmacies. “Total allocation of 4.5 million [45 lakh] tablets has been made to the state and this will be delivered in phases until the end of April,” Union Health Ministry Officer on Special Duty Sudhansh Pant said.
In Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, a chemist told the Hindustan Times that wholesalers have stopped supplying the drug citing government restrictions. Madhya Pradesh Additional Director (Health) Sapna Lovanshi, on the other hand, said there was enough stock of hydroxychloroquine in government hospitals across the state, and the government had not received any complaints so far.
Odisha and Goa
Chemists in Odisha said the medicine was in short supply after the state government asked dealers not to supply it to retailers. Dibakar Sahu, a chemist in Bhubaneswar, said retail shops are not giving hydroxychloroquine to people without prescriptions.
Drugs controller Mamina Patnaik said so far, the Naveen Patnaik-led government has sent hydroxychloroquine worth Rs 8 lakh to to state-owned Odisha State Medical Corporation, to be used only for Covid-19 patients.
Chemists and Druggists Association of Goa President Albert D’Sa said the medicine is unavailable even with doctors in the state right now. “We have the stock but we are reserving it for those who really need it, like doctors, and have stopped selling it over the counter as the fresh stock has not arrived,” he said.
Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar
Sandeep Rajgharia, a pharmacy owner from Ranchi in Jharkhand, said distributors refused supply to retailers from March itself, citing government prohibition. Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences Superintendent Vivek Kashyap said the facility has enough hydroxychloroquine even in case of high demand.
Assam’s food and drugs department also said there is adequate stock of the medicine. Chemists are not allowed to sell the drug without prescription.
Dr Amulya Kumar Singh, an orthopaedician in Patna, the capital of Bihar, said that while the drug is available with manufacturers, transport problems mean it cannot be supplied to retailers. He said some wholesalers are hoarding the drug.
India has so far reported 5,734 cases of Covid-19, including 166 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
India has restarted limited export of hydroxychloroquine following threats by United States President Donald Trump that he would retaliate if India does not supply the drug. Trump has insisted the drug will help patients with coronavirus, despite there being little evidence to back his claim.