Teva ships India’s first consignment of hydroxychloroquine to the US

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on April 13, 2020

Ipca, Zydus also ready, but focus is on creating domestic buffer

After the initial uncertainty over export of hydroxychloroquine from India, used in the fight against Covid-19, the first consignment of the drug has reached the US.

Israeli drugmaker Teva has exported the drug from its Goa plant (under Watson Pharma, a company it had acquired). The company has exported 2.4 million tablets, and 9 tonnes of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) used to make the tablet, Udaya Bhaskar, Director General with the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), confirmed to BusinessLine. The value of the consignment is pegged at $2 million.

The development comes a week after the Centre’s flip-flop on exporting the drug. Domestic drug companies Ipca, Zydus Cadila and Laurus Labs are also said to be ready to export. In fact, Ipca and Zydus supply 70 per cent of the global requirement of the drug.

At present, these companies are ensuring that domestic requirements are met. “By tomorrow, about 5 crore tablets would have been supplied to State and Central governments,” Ipca Joint Managing Director AK Jain said, adding that in another two weeks, retail supplies would also be adequately stocked.

The sudden demand for the drug as a preventive resulted in people hoarding the medicine and patients falling short of the drug. Ipca is working round the clock, he said, to make sure that regular patients of the drug have supplies at their chemist and a helpline has been instituted for patients to call in if they have a problem.

Jain sees no supply issues, since it makes the API locally as well. With many countries requiring the drug, the company expects to begin exporting as diplomatic clearances come through. It is ramping up capacity from making 10 crore  tablets a month to 13 crore, and 26 tonnes of API (up from 20 t).

Scientific caution

Hydroxychloroquine, used in treating rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and certain types of malaria, made international headlines after US President Trump called it a “game changer” and asked India to release stocks of the drug it had ordered. This action took place last weekend, when India had just ordered a complete stop on export of the drug, with no exceptions. The situation has since turned around, with the Centre opening the gates for a dozen-odd APIs, besides permitting limited export of hydroxichloroquine and paracetamol.

The international and domestic surge in demand for hydroxychloroquine comes even as scientific voices call for its restrained use in healthcare workers handling Covid patients or the family of the patient. Doctors have been raising concerns on the drug’s impact on the heart and the eyes.

Published on April 13, 2020

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