By Neha Dasgupta and Sanjeev Miglani
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India, the world’s main supplier of generic drugs, said on Tuesday it will allow limited exports of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine that U.S. President Donald Trump has touted as a potential weapon in the fight against the coronavirus.
The Indian government had put a hold on exports of hydroxychloroquine as well as on the pain reliever, paracetamol, saying stocks were depleting because of the hit to global supply chains after the coronavirus emerged in China late last year.
But Trump spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the weekend seeking supplies and on Monday said India may face retaliation if it didn’t withdraw the ban on exports.
India’s neighbours, including Nepal, have also sought the anti-malaria drug.
“It has been decided that India would licence paracetamol and HCQ in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava.
“We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic,” he said.
Use of hydroxychloroquine has soared as the United States has quickly become the epicentre of the pandemic, though doctors prescribing it have no idea whether it works.
U.S. fatalities from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, hit 10,902 on Monday, rapidly closing in on Italy and Spain, the countries with the greatest loss of life to date, according to a Reuters tally of official data.
In addition, the Indian government said it was lifting curbs on the export of 24 pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines made from them that includes several antibiotics, such as tinidazole and erythromycin, the hormone progesterone and Vitamin B12.
“After having confirmed the availability of medicines for all possible contingencies currently envisaged, these restrictions have been largely lifted, ” foreign ministry spokesman Srivastava said.
(Reporter Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Neil Fullick and Raju Gopalakrishnan)