Govt bans export of malaria drug amid COVID-19 outbreak

Government bans export of key malaria drug amid coronavirus outbreak

Tablets containing chloroquine and Plaqueril, tablets containing hydroxychloroquine, drugs that has shown signs of effectiveness against coronavirus. (AFP Photo)

 Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the government on Wednesday banned the export of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, with immediate effect to ensure sufficient availability of the medicine in the domestic market.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Balram Bhargava had on Monday recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating healthcare workers handling suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases and also the asymptomatic household contacts of the lab-confirmed cases.

The treatment protocol recommended by the ICMR-constituted National Task Force for COVID-19 has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) for restricted use in emergency situations.

In a notification issued on Wednesday, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), an arm of the commerce ministry which deals with export and import-related matters, said, "The export of hydroxychloroquine and formulations made from hydroxychloroquine is prohibited with immediate effect".

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It, however, said the government will allow export of the medicine on humanitarian grounds on case-to-case basis on the Ministry of External Affairs' recommendation.

The export will also be permitted from the special economic zones/export-oriented units and in cases where the outbound shipment is made to fulfill export obligation under any advance authorisation license issued on or before the date of this notification, which is March 25, 2020.

It added, "Export will be allowed in case of shipments where an irrevocable letter of credit has been issued before the date of this notification or in case where full advance payment has been received by the exporter in India against the specific shipment, subject to the submission of documentary evidence."

According to some reports, demand for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, a related compound, have jumped after US President Donald Trump said that these salts were effective in treating COVID-19. People are panic buying this medicine.

Over the last few weeks, India has banned exports of host of medical devices including sanitisers, all types of ventilators and surgical masks.

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