Amplified global demands for anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which is being touted as a ‘game-changer’ in the treatment of COVID-19, has pushed India’s oldest pharma company, Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BCPL), to leap into action and obtain a licence overnight from the Drugs Controller General of India to manufacture the drug.
BCPL was founded by Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, the Indian chemist whose contribution in the field of chemistry earned him the title of ‘the father of Indian chemistry’. It is the only public sector unit company that manufactures HCQ.
The company’s managing director, PM Chandraiah, said BCPL has the capacity and infrastructure to manufacture around 10-15 lakh tablets per day and it is willing to manufacture HCQ on a cost-on-cost basis during the pandemic.
Chandraiah further said he has written to the state as well as the central government for necessary raw materials to manufacture the drug.
Preliminary research shows HCQ is effective in reducing the severity of COVID-19, and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has advised Indian healthcare workers to use it as well.
United States President Donald Trump has called this drug a ‘game-changer’ during his coronavirus-related press briefing, and soon after, his government placed a request for the drug to India.
Despite an initial ban on export of HCQ, after Trump said there could be consequences if India didn’t cooperate, and following a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump, the drug has been finally made available to a number of countries, including the US.
According to a News18 report, Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Dammu Ravi said, “HCQ is in high demand globally… A lot of requests for HCQ have already been there. Several countries have made requests for this particular item. Taking into view the domestic necessities and requirements, and the domestic stock availability and keeping sufficient buffers for our own requirement, a decision was taken by a group of ministers to release some of the surplus medicine for export purposes.”
“This is again an ongoing process. The first batch of the first list of countries have been approved, and the product has started to leave,” he added.
A Business Today report claims the list of countries receiving HCQ from India includes 13 nations, namely the US, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Seychelles, Mauritius, the Dominican Republic, Spain, Germany, Bahrain, and Brazil.
However, even as there is a rising demand for the drug globally, its effectiveness has been questioned. According to a review research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, drugs like chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are likely to generate adverse side effects like reduced blood glucose levels, irregular heartbeats in patients.
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