Update 4/7/20: Following pressure from President Trump, the Indian government said in a statement Tuesday that it was partially lifting the ban in “appropriate quantities” given the “humanitarian aspects of the pandemic.”
India, which sources nearly half of the U.S. supply of hydroxychloroquine, has banned the drug’s export “without any exceptions” effective immediately, India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade said in an April 4 order on its website.
As of Monday, India has recorded 3,374 positive cases and has lost 77 lives, according to its federal health ministry. Trump said on Saturday that he had spoken to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and revealed that India is giving “serious consideration” to the release of shipments U.S. has already ordered.
A Bloomberg News analysis found that 47 percent of the U.S. supply of hydroxychloroquine last year came from Indian manufacturers, including the top U.S. supplier, Zydus Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is a subsidiary of Ahmedabad, India-based Cadila Healthcare Ltd. It sold over 167 million units of the anti-malarial in 2019, and has supplied 28 million to the U.S. market so far this year.
The anti-malarial drug has been consistently promoted by President Trump as a potential effective anti-viral treatment, despite a lack of clinical evidence. “I’ve seen things I sort of like,” Trump said of the drug at a White House news conference on Sunday. “What do I know, I’m not a doctor. But I have common sense.”
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Sunday said there had been “some accounts, some stories” about hydroxychloroquine “helping.” and the drug, which has been in use for years, is believed to be free of serious side effects for most patients.
“We feel a little bit better regarding its safety than we do about a completely novel drug, even though this is being used at much higher dosages,” Adams added in an interview on Fox News Sunday.
New York health officials have begun trials of the drug, with 4,000 patients being treated as part of a study by the University of Albany’s School of Public Health.