Keeping in view the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, India on Tuesday allowed exports of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to the USA and other countries.
However, the government stressed that priority will be given to meeting domestic requirements.
“In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, it has been decided that India will licence paracetamol and HCQ in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries, who are dependent on our capabilities. We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic,” said Anurag Srivastava, the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Requests from neighbouring countries like Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Bhutan and others are also being accorded priority.
US President Donald Trump had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to make this request. Prime Minister Modi assured him that India and USA will cooperate on the fight COVID-19 crisis.
“Stressing the special relationship between the two countries, the Prime Minister reiterated India’s solidarity with the USA in overcoming this global crisis together. The two leaders agreed to deploy the full strength of the India – US partnership to resolutely and effectively combat COVID-19,” an MEA statement released late evening on Saturday (Sunday morning in the USA) noted the gist of talks between Prime Minister Modi and US President Trump.
The government had decided to supply drugs to friendly and needy countries. But the growing enormity of the crisis led to some anxiety regarding the availability of these drugs in some of the worst-affected countries like the USA.
“It’s true that hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol were among the restricted drugs and not for open export by India. But it was decided to make partial lifting depending on the availability of the stock, existing orders will be cleared. However which country’s orders will be cleared, will be decided by the ministry of external affairs in consultation with Department of Pharmaceuticals on the basis of a humanitarian crisis,” said sources in the MEA
They also added that there was no confusion on supplying these drugs to the USA, given the growing number of deaths in the country and the warmth of its relations with India.
In order to ensure a fair supply of essential medicines to the neediest countries, a comprehensive assessment was made of possible requirements under different scenarios. Accordingly, 14 drugs were freed of any restrictions and notified by the DGFT.
Hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol were not included in that list. “With regard to paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), they will be kept in a licensed category and their demand position would be continuously monitored. However, the stock position could allow our companies to meet the export commitments that they had contracted,” the MEA statement said.
“Like any responsible government, our first obligation is to ensure that there are adequate stocks of medicines for our own people,” MEA spokesperson Srivastava said in an attempt to clear the air on the confusion in some quarters of the American media.