Trump’s call to Modi on Covid-related drug spotlights two Indian drugmakers

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on April 05, 2020 Published on April 05, 2020

This, even as DGFT bans export of hydroxychloroquine

With United States President Donald Trump bringing up antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, again, the spotlight will be on Indian drugmakers Ipca and Zydus Cadila, who are major producers of this drug used that’s to treat patients with the novel coronavirus.

Over the weekend, Trump said that he had requested Prime Minister Modi to release stocks of the drug the US had ordered. And to quote Trump, India was giving the request “serious consideration”.

For this transaction to go through, the pathway will evidently have to be cleared by the highest offices in the country. Because the export of hydroxychloroquine was banned not just late in March. But a note on Saturday (April 4) from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade said that the export of hydroxychloroquine was prohibited “without any exception”.

The weeks ahead will unravel how this transaction will go through, a move that will benefit companies like Ipca and Zydus. Late in March, Ipca has said that the United States Food and Drug Administration had made an exception to the existing “import alert” (bans) for the company’s Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients and finished products of hydroxychloroquine sulphate and chloroquine phosphate. Ipca and Zydus did not comment on the fresh demand on the drug.

Game changer?

Widespread interest involving this antimalarial medicine had been triggered by Trump, who called it a “game changer”, only to have experts step in and temper the optimism with caution.

Studies are ongoing to assess if the drug is indeed a “game changer” when taken alone or with antibiotic azithromycin. In fact, doctors advise against rampant use of the drug as a preventive, unless under medical supervision, due to its effect on the heart’s rhythm. Despite this, there was a run on the drug in India and other countries leading to a shortage of the medicine and in some instances, death. In fact, the Indian government, too, subsequently tightened its grip on the drug by ensuring it is sold only on a prescription and given only to healthcare workers and close contacts of people confirmed with the coronavirus.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are antimalarials, but the latter is also used in treating rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. According to market intelligence company AIOCD-AWACS, the estimated size of the hydroxychloroquine market was ₹152 crore for the 12 months upto February, and chloroquine was pegged at ₹51 crore. Ipca’s sales of hydroxychloroquine was close to ₹125 crore. Other makers of the product included Torrent Pharma, Alembic and Sun Pharma, among others.

Globally, Bayer, Teva, Novartis and Mylan are in the fray. And Bayer has already committed to making a 3-million donation of its Resochin (chloroquine phosphate) to the US. Interestingly, Bayer’s production facility in Pakistan supplied China during the outbreak.

Published on April 05, 2020

A letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.