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. 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. 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. 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. Interestingly, Bayer’s production facility in Pakistan supplied China during the outbreak.
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