According to a government statement, India, which is one of the world’s major suppliers of generic drugs, has removed the restrictions imposed on the exports of 24 pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines made in the country.
The government had ordered the ban last month as the coronavirus outbreak disrupted global supply chains of medicines and fear of the shortage of such medicines in case of health emergencies in India.
Revoking India’s Drug Exports Ban
Anticipating a further escalation and deepening the virus contamination in India, last month the Modi government issued the order to ban the exports of 26 drugs made in the country so that these drugs could be used in emergencies for the Indian people. However, the government lifted the restrictions of 24 drugs while Paracetamol, a common pain reliever, and its formulations were excluded in the new list of drugs recently freed up for export.
The government did not explain what prompted India to make this new move but some government sources highlighted that the government took such actions due to the intense pressure from the US. On Saturday, April 4, 2020, it was confirmed that a telephone conversation was held between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump, discussing a wide range of cooperation in fighting the virus outbreak.
Following the talk, a White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a tweet on Saturday, “The two leaders agreed to remain in touch on the issue of global supply chains for critical pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and to ensure they continue to function as smoothly as possible during the global health crisis.”
US Pressure on India
On March 3, 2020, India had restricted the exports of 26 ingredients and medicines, in which Paracetamol and its formulations accounted for two items on the original list. A government source explained that the 26 active pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines have accounted for 10% of all Indian pharmaceutical exports and included several antibiotics, such as tinidazole and erythromycin, the hormone progesterone, and Vitamin B12.
Moreover, amid the shortage of global supply on healthcare items due to the virus epidemic, the Indian government has also put a restriction order on the export of most diagnostic testing kits of the virus. With the emerging demands for medical equipment for the treatment of the coronavirus patients, in recent weeks India had also banned the export of ventilators, masks, and other protective gear needed by both patients and medical staff.
It was reported by several sources that Trump urged Modi to release supplies of the anti-malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine during the telephone call on Saturday, to test for a possible treatment for patients with COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus. Late on Monday, April 6, 2020, Trump said from Washington that India could face severe consequences from the US if New Delhi decides to ban hydroxychloroquine exports.
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