Hydroxychloroquine tablets or HCQ tablets, which are primarily used in the treatment of malaria, witnessed a surge in demand over the past few months as these formulations currently appears as the only viable solution for treating COVID-19. In the absence of any dedicated vaccine or drug for treating this respiratory disease, HCQ is seen as the only possible treatment for COVID-19. India shipped 50 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to the US, following the request by the US President, Donald Trump to release the supply of hydroxychloroquine.
These tablets are anti-malarial drugs and have been in use for decades for treating mosquito-borne diseases. Recently, an increased demand for these tablets was observed and different countries including the US, rely on nations like China and India for the supply of generic drugs. Fear of drug shortages surfaced as India, world's biggest supplier of generic drugs, restricted exports of 26 ingredients as well as the medicines formulated from them after the outbreak of the pandemic.
India’s drug makers rely on China for around 70% of the active ingredients in their medicines and thus, the halted production in China can directly affect the drug manufacturing capacity of India. The decision regarding the restriction was taken by the government of India as the drug manufacturers in China has also cut their output or will remain shut following the mass lockdown in the region. The industry experts have warned that different regions are likely to face shortages if the epidemic continues and there could be a global shortage if China and India both get hit.
Although the US Food and Drug Administration and other authorities like the Canadian Health Department have issued warnings about the harmful side-effects of anti-malarial drug in the treatment of COVID-19 (like rapid heart-beat and trouble in breathing), but these tablets are still being considered as one of the most effective solutions to combat this deadly pandemic in the absence of any vaccine. In fact, some of the US doctors continued prescribing HCQ tablets to the patients for the treatment of COVID-19.
As the death rate in the US from COVID-19 reached almost 60,000 by the end of April, which is the highest in the world, there is no doubt that the doctors in the US would do their best to save as much lives as possible. For that, they are looking for solutions that could change the course of COVID-19, which not only attacks the lungs but also shuts down other body organs as observed in some cases.
These tablets are being considered as the game changer in the treatment of COVID-19 and the US president has requested India to send in more supplies of hydroxychloroquine tablets. The cases and death rates in the region continue to grow and the pandemic has affected the nation severely.
Meanwhile in India, government issued 68 new licences to the drug manufacturers in Gujarat to produce more units of hydroxychloroquine formulations. The majority of these licences were for the exports. Some pharmaceutical companies in Gujarat continued to produce and export HCQ tablets in large quantities.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, IPCA Laboratories, and Cadila Healthcare are some of the leading suppliers of HCQ tablets in India. Cadila Healthcare estimated that, they could possibly boost their production and manufacturing capacity and can produce up to 30 metric tonnes of the formulations per month.
India is now supplying HCQ tablets not only to the U.S but to the other countries as well on grounds of humanitarian and commercial level. Acting on the US’s request, India has shipped about 50 lakhs HCQ tablets to Canada as well and showed the world its capabilities and strength. India and Canada have been old strategic partners and very good friends. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, both the countries agreed to cooperate on all fronts. India and Canada have decided to share and exchange information regarding the treatment of COVID-19 and protection of the supply chain.
By exporting huge amounts of HCQ tablets to the developed nations such as the US and Canada, and to other countries as well, India showed the world its strength and versatility. It showed how India, as a nation is self-sufficient and fully capable of helping itself as well as others amidst the pandemic. This step of India, assisting the US and Canada on such a huge level not only benefitted the drug industry in the region but also helped the nation achieve huge value in the international market.