COVID-19: India prohibits export of hydroxychloroquine to deal with domestic shortage

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 25, 2020

Exports to be allowed from SEZs, EOUs and on humanitarian grounds

India has prohibited export of hydroxychloroquine--considered by many as an effective drug against COVID-19 —and its associated formulations, in a notification issued in the early hours of Wednesday.

The drug has been disappearing fast from shelves in chemist shops across the country because of a recent surge in both domestic and global demand although enough tests have not been done to prove that it works against the virus conclusively.

“Export of hydrochloroquine and formulations made from it, however, shall be allowed under specific conditions,” according to the notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.

Hydroxychloroquine and formulations can be exported from units in Special Economic Zones and Export Oriented Units. Exports will also be permitted in cases where they are made to meet export obligations or have been recommended under humanitarian grounds on case to case basis by the Ministry of External Affairs, the notification stated.

Another instance under which exports will be allowed is where the irrevocable letter of credit has been issued before the date of the notification or in the case where full advance payment has been received by the exporters in India against the specific shipment, subject to the submission of documentary evidence.

So far, the export of hydroxychloroquine and formulations was free in India, but due to a sudden spike in demand in the world and domestic market and the resultant shortage in the country, a decision to impose export prohibition was taken.

The Indian Council for Medical Research has recommended hydroxychloroquine for high-risk population such as asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.

While enough clinical testing to prove the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine ( which is usually used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis) in the fight against COVID-19 has not taken place, data from countries such as China suggest that it may be useful against the virus. US President Donald Trump also endorsed it by recently tweeting that the combination of hydroxychloroquine with another antibiotic azithromycin could be a game-changer in the history of medicine. However, this was frowned upon by many medical practitioners.

Published on March 25, 2020

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