India committed to global COVID-19 fight, so lifted drug ban: Govt

India is committed to the global fight against COVID-19, and so had decided to lift the ban on 14 drugs, including those used for treatment of COVID-19

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and US President Donald Trump arrive to address their joint press statement, at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

India is committed to the global fight against COVID-19, and so had decided to lift the ban on 14 drugs, including those used for treatment of COVID-19, according to top officials in the government.

An empowered panel chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principal secretary PK Mishra had taken this decision even before US President Donald Trump threatened a retaliation if the ban on export of hydroxychloroquine was not lifted.

India had told all countries, including the US, about the change in policy to lift the ban and facilitate the supply of critical drugs, the Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday.

The decision came after the committee assessed the potential domestic demand and existing supplies and it was found that there was enough stock of essential drugs to meet potential demand.

Earlier, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had banned the export of hydroxychloroquine and other drugs on April 4, following which Trump had requested Modi for an urgent supply of the drug used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, but not having any evidence of success against COVID-19.

After a phone conversation, Trump, who has been urging Americans to take the drug, said he had told Modi that “there may be retaliation” if he doesn’t allow it to come out.

Related news: US may retaliate if India doesn’t export Hydroxychloroquine tablets: Trump

“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,” a senior official told HT.

“We informed all the countries including the US about the change in policy. It is a matter of record,” the official said.

Anurag Srivastava, the external affairs ministry spokesperson, said India’s decision to lift the drug ban was taken considering “the humanitarian aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic” battle by countries across the world.

Related news: Tharoor snubs Trump, says US will get drugs if India sells it

“We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic,” he said.

India’s USD 50 billion pharmaceutical industry supports about 50% of the import needs of the US, besides supplying the entire drug requirements of smaller countries such as Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius.

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