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President Trump and Hydroxychloroquine Episode – Here is the Only Relevant Question India Should Be Bothered About

President Trump and Hydroxychloroquine

Ever since the President of United States, Donald Trump, commented on the hydroxychloroquine medicine that he wanted from India, a large number of opinions flooded media and social media. Did he ‘threaten’ India for retaliation? Does India’s action of lifting the export ban of hydroxychloroquine happen due to his assertion etc.? Of course, the Congress party used this issue to argue that India weakened its stand; however, the subsequent media interaction of the US president makes it amply clear that there was context to his earlier assertion as he actually thanked PM Modi and understood India’s position.

In fact, a closer analysis that takes into the account of different time zones, it is evident that India’s decision of lifting of export restriction was taken before the alleged ‘threat’ of President Trump. This Hindustan Times report explains how the restriction on 14 other drugs also relaxed to help the world.

The Central Question- Did India Keep Sufficient Stock for Herself?

Instead of endlessly debating what President Trump said, the relevant question should be – does India possess sufficient quantity of hydroxychloroquine before it lifts restrictions on its export?

Because, in a global crisis, a nation cannot decline the need of its friends and neighbors for long. Every country is dependent on others for a number of things. Suppose, if the vaccination for COVID-19 emerges from the US tomorrow, don’t we need it from them?

Anyhow, the only thing anyone can ensure in such a situation is to secure your interest before helping others. That’s what India did by imposing export restrictions on hydroxychloroquine initially when the demand surged at global level. This was done to ensure that India has self-sufficient reserves for itself, eventually allowing it to lift the restriction at a later stage.

Congress Contention

The communication from the Congress side also agrees that one can’t refrain from helping others with medicines and essentials. So, what is its contention? It demands that nation should first ensure surplus medicine for its people. To quote Rahul Gandhi’s tweet, “India must help all nations in their hour of need but lifesaving medicines should be made available to Indians in ample quantities first.”

So, the contention of Congress should ideally be over once an answer to this effect comes to the fore.

And the answer from government and other platforms is a resounding ‘Yes’ in this regard. India has ensured sufficient quantity of hydroxychloroquine reserve for itself.

India Self-sufficient in hydroxychloroquine Doses

As on April 7, 2020,  the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Luv Aggarwal, at the daily media briefing placed it on record saying that “the Health Ministry is in close coordination with the Ministry of Pharmaceuticals regarding the national requirement of Hydroxychloroquine (to be used only for critically ill patients and health professionals, based on medical advice).” He said that proper matching has been done in this regard and that “the nation has the required quantity available.”

The private sector also corroborates this claim of the government. In an interview to The Economic Times, A K Jain, Joint MD of IPCA Labs, which has nearly 70% market share of this drug in the world, has said that:

“India’s requirement is only 4 tonnes of this and we are building sufficient stock and supplying to domestic market. Even if the patient number goes up significantly the government has sufficient stock to cater to huge number of patients. The government has placed an order of 10 crore tablets, which we can service within this month.”

Other voices in the Indian Pharma industry also vouched for India’s self-sufficient capacity in this drug.

So, Rahul Gandhi and other ‘experts’ in this matter can move on to find some other things to ‘outrage’ about.