As the world looks at India to ramp up exports of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), now used to treat COVID-19 patients, it is time for the Narendra Modi government to seize this huge opportunity. India, which had banned the export of HCQ to ensure there was no shortage of the drug in the domestic market, has decided to allow its shipment outside the country after the US administration sought its supply.
Trump, who spoke of retaliation in case India decided not to export the drug, was quick to thank Modi saying that this act “will not be forgotten.”
Not the just the US, many other countries including Brazil too have sought supply of the drug from India, which manufactures 70 per cent of the world’s total requirement.
In fact, this has opened up a huge opportunity for India to make a mark in the global medicinal arena by increasing its exports to several countries hit by the deadly COVID 19.
While India had been exporting HCQ till recently, this is the time to seize the opportunity to enhance exports of other drugs and medical equipment as well. This is the time to strengthen and boost its Make in India scheme and displace China, a major supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) across the globe.
Companies such as Ipca Laboratories, Cadila Healthcare (Zydus Cadila), Torrent Pharmaceuticals, and Wallace Pharmaceuticals that produce this drug are working overtime to ensure that there is enough supply to ensure that there is no shortage in the domestic market while meeting the enhanced export orders.
India has the capacity to manufacture about 20 crore tablets of 200 mg each per month. This is the time to ramp up production of this tablet, which is not manufactured in the US or European countries.
A chunk of the API, used to manufacture HCQ, comes from China but supplies so far remained steady. But there is no reason why Indian companies cannot boost production of the API.
Zydus Cadila, Mangalam Drugs, and Vital Laboratories are already producing the raw materials for this drug. It is the need of the hour to look at this in a more holistic manner to ensure that the supply of raw material as well as the production of medicines is increased, not only for Indian markets but also the world.
The government, on its part, must ensure that a seamless supply chain.
Many pharmaceutical companies have been facing problems due to dearth of labor at this critical juncture and uncertainty arising on the transport front, both crucial to allow timely supply.
It could be a game changing moment for India. It must not let this opportunity go..