INDIA AS A SUPPLIER OF HCQ TO REST OF THE WORLD: JUSTIFIED OR NOT?
There has been a lot of criticism of PM Modi after a ban on export of HCQs were lifted and India agreed to supply HCQ to US and other countries. However, is this criticism justified?
First, let us look at Indian pharmaceutical industry in general. India ranks third in the world in terms of volume of pharmaceutical production. Indian pharma companies supply drugs to over 200 countries in the world, including 50% of vaccine supplies to the world. Therefore, India is termed as “the pharmacy of the world”. In 2018-19, our pharma exports were worth 19 billion USD, and our Indian market was also worth the same value, so, we are doing a fine balancing act. The quality of Indian drugs is among the best in the world, therefore, US, Europe, Australia and Japan has no hesitation in importing drugs from India.
HCQ PRODUCTION IN INDIA
India produces 70% of the world’s HCQ and about 50% of HCQ used in USA comes from India. Ipca laboratories and Zydus Cadila are the leading manufacturers of HCQ in India. There are a few smaller players too. These companies are capable of producing about 20 crore tablets of HCQ (200 mg) per month. A patient suffering from Covid 19 disease requires about 15-30 tablets for treatment, depending on the severity of disease. So, a month supplies from India can take care of HCQ needs of about 10 million patients (currently, the entire world has only 1.5 million patients). This should give you an estimate of how much surplus of HCQ supplies is there in India.
We have surplus but why should we give it to other countries?
1. There is no way Indian patients will run out of HCQ supplies even if reach the numbers of USA or Italy (which seems unlikely today, as we have only about 6500 cases today, 9th April, 2020). Moreover, central as well as state governments have stocked crores of HCQ tablets to take care of patients with Covid 19 and other rheumatological conditions. So, does it make sense to hoard HCQ, when we know that we are not going to use all of them?
2. It is the basic humanity and moral obligation to help each other during a state of global pandemic, when we are fighting an unprecedented Covid 19. Today, we are helping the world with HCQ. However, we need PPEs and N95 masks from other countries. Tomorrow, we may need a vaccine for Covid 19 from other countries. Already, we have received appreciation from heads of countries that have received HCQs.
3. It makes economic sense to earn revenues from exporting drugs (especially during this period when economy is really hurting). India has received requests for HCQ from 30 countries, which include neighbouring countries, Brazil, USA, etc. It is the right time to get some money along with the goodwill!