Even before President Donald Trump warned India of possible retaliation if the ban on export on hydroxychloroquine was not lifted on Monday, the Modi government had communicated to all countries including US about the change in the policy to facilitate supply of critical drugs through institutionalised channels.
The empowered committee chaired by PM Modi’s principal secretary PK Mishra took a decision on Monday to lift export restrictions on 14 drugs and allow the export of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol after an assessment of potential domestic demand and existing supplies.
“It is not only about hydroxychloroquine or the US. Indian pharma industry supplies HIV drugs to 8 million patients in south Africa, paracetamol to the UK, 80 % of all drugs to the neighbourhood including Maldives and Mauritius, and will supply hydroxychloroquine to big countries affected by the coronavirus like the US, Spain, Germany and Brazil. For the past three days since the DGFT put a ban on export of hydroxychloroquine on April 4, the empowered committee has been meeting to reconcile the demands of the health ministry and the pharmaceutical industry. We informed all the countries including the US about the change in policy. It is a matter of record,” said a senior South Block official.
According to sources, the change in the export policy of critical drugs was communicated to the countries concerned through the External Affairs Ministry early on Monday. The DGFT was told to issue a notification to this effect.
The formal announcement by the foreign ministry was made on Tuesday.
Anurag Srivastava, the external affairs ministry spokesperson attributed the decision to “the humanitarian aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic” battle. “We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic,” he said.
Behind PM Modi’s decision to lift the export ban is the message that India will not walk out of any commitment on critical drugs particularly at a time when the world is fighting the coronavirus, people familiar with the development said.
India has a $ 50 billion pharma industry that employees a vast force and caters to critical drugs for large parts of the world. Some countries such as Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius are completely dependent on the Indian industry for its supplies.
Since the US companies had placed hydroxychloroquine orders on 100% export-oriented units in India, the much-needed drug will be supplied almost immediately with the pharma companies sitting on a drug pile.
President Trump had called up PM Modi on Sunday, the day after the DGFT banned hydroxychloroquine export on April 5. The government decided to relax the restriction after satisfying itself that India had enough stocks of essential drugs to meet any possible requirement of the health ministry.
The DGFT notification on licensing hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol is in the works and will be issued any time soon.