India on Tuesday announced that it will supply paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine to countries 'particularly badly affected' to contain the spread of deadly COVID-19. The decision of lifting the curbs on selected drugs has come hours after US President Donald Trump warned of 'retaliation' if India continues to restrict the supplies of anti-malarial drugs. Further, the ease in supplies from China also helped India to lift the restriction on exports of 13 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and their formulations, reported Hindustan Times.
In an official statement, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, "In view of the humanitarian aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been decided that India would licence paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities."
It is to be noted that in a conversation with Narendra Modi, the US President had requested the lifting of the hold on hydroxychloroquine exports. Amidst rising cases of COVID -19 in India, the Modi government had banned the export of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine on March 25 to ensure the sufficient supply of the medicine in the domestic market. Further, the government had allowed the allowed exports on a 'case-to-case' basis on humanitarian grounds from SEZs and zones marked specifically for the purpose of exports. However, it imposed a blanket ban on April 4th.
Enough stocks of Paracetamol in India
One of the concerns of the government was the sufficient supplies of these essential drugs in its fight against COVID-19. But the exporters have argued that the country is being sufficiently supplied with paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine including other drugs. "There is enough stock of paracetamol in the country. At present, the US, which has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, needs paracetamol. The US is worried that India's stance can lead to drug shortages in that market, as we supply almost 25 percent of the generic medicines sold in the US," Business Standard quoted one of the leading exporters as saying.
The demand for hydroxychloroquine has gone up across the world due to its encouraging effect on COVID-19. In fact, the task force for COVID-19 has also recommended the use of the medicine for infections among "asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19".