India will export anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, high in demand globally, only to foreign governments and not to private companies, as the product is under prohibited or banned category of exports, sources said.
Although exports of this medicine is completely banned, India has decided to export this anti-malarial drug in sync with its global commitment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
"Hydroxychloroquine continues to be a prohibited item. Private-to-private company or a domestic exporter-to-foreign importer trade is banned. The procedure, which the government is adopting, is to help countries which are in dire need or which are traditionally dependent on India for this medicine or friendly countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan," the sources said.
Explaining the procedure, they said countries that have to import hydroxychloroquine would have to route their application through the ministry of external affairs.
The department of pharmaceuticals would assess the requirement sought by that country and see its impact on India's availability and without compromising on India's interests, it would recommend the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to give a licence or go-ahead signal to customs authorities to release the consignment.
DGFT is an arm of the commerce ministry that deals with export- and import-related issues. It is the agency that gives licence or permission or no-objection certificate for exports or imports.
On March 25, India banned export of hydroxychloroquine with some exceptions in the midst of views in some quarters that the drug could be used to fight Covid-19. On April 4, it completely banned the exports without any exception.
In a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, US President Donald Trump had sought supply of hydroxychloroquine to the US.
Hydroxychloroquine is an old and inexpensive drug used to treat malaria. India is the largest producer and exporter of the drug globally.
India is learnt to have received requests from over 20 countries including its immediate neighbours Sri Lanka and Nepal for the supply.
The Indian pharmaceutical industry has stated that there is enough stock of hydroxychloroquine in the country, and drug firms are ready to ramp up the production to meet domestic as well as export requirements.
India manufactures 70 per cent of the world's supply of hydroxychloroquine. Companies like Zydus Cadila and IPCA are the major manufacturers in the country, according to the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA).
Professor at Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) Rakesh Mohan Joshi said India is the world's largest manufacturer and supplier accounting for about 70 per cent of the world's supplies.
In the US market, India accounted for about 47 per cent supply of hydroxychloroquine in 2019, he said.
Indian Drug Manufacturers' Association Executive Director Ashok Kumar Madan has said India currently has an annual installed capacity of around 40 tonnes of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) of hydroxychloroquine. With this capacity, "We can make around 200 million tablets of 200 mg," he has said.
India exported hydroxychloroquine API worth USD 1.22 billion in April-January 2019-20. During the same period exports of formulations made from hydroxycholoroquine was at USD 5.50 billion.