Coronavirus: India exports 50 mln hydroxychloroquine tablets to US says source

A chemist displays hydroxychloroquine tablets in New Delhi, India on April 9, 2020. (File photo: AP)

India has shipped 50 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to the US, an Indian source with direct knowledge of the exports said, although US regulators warned the anti-malarial drug may have harmful side effects in the treatment of COVID-19.

The trade, India’s biggest export of the drug to any country, follows a request by US President Donald Trump for New Delhi to release supplies of hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for the respiratory disease.

“It amounts to 50 million tablets... Commercial companies are pursuing. It’s ongoing,” said the source, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of discussions with the US.

The US Food and Drug Administration, the European Union’s drug regulator and the Canadian health department have cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine, citing side effects such as abnormal heart rhythms and a dangerously rapid heart rate.

However, the health warnings have done little to deter the drug’s imports to the US, where some doctors are continuing to prescribe the drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

“There is high demand for hydroxychloroquine in the international market including US,” Viranchi Shah, senior vice-president, Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA), told Reuters.

An Indian doctor interacts with a journalist before conducting his swab test during lockdown to control the spread of the new coronavirus in Mumbai, India on April 16, 2020. (AP)

An Indian doctor interacts with a journalist before conducting his swab test during lockdown to control the spread of the new coronavirus in Mumbai, India on April 16, 2020. (AP)

This month India said it would allow some exports of hydroxychloroquine after Trump touted it as a “game changer” and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send supplies.

In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, 68 new licenses have been issued to drugmakers to manufacture hydroxychloroquine formulations, H.G. Koshia, commissioner, Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA), Gujarat, told Reuters.

“Majority of these licenses are for exports,” he said.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, IPCA Laboratories and Cadila Healthcare are among India’s leading suppliers of hydroxychloroquine.

Scientists sort through COVID-19 samples from recovered patients on April 10, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (AFP)

Scientists sort through COVID-19 samples from recovered patients on April 10, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (AFP)

As the US coronavirus death toll topped 60,000 on Wednesday - the highest in the world - doctors in the US are desperate for anything that might alter the course of the disease, which attacks the lungs and can shut down other organs in severe cases.

The foreign ministry said India was continuing to supply hydroxychloroquine, and other essential medicines produced in India, to other countries. These supplies were taking place both on a humanitarian and a commercial basis.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:06 - GMT 07:06
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