With reports pouring in that people without prescriptions buy hydroxychloroquine a drug believed to be useful in treating Covid 19, the government has banned exports of hydroxychloroquine, the decades-old malaria drug. The drug was also touted by President Trump as a possible weapon in the fight against Covid-19, but has been in short supply.
In a notice posted Wednesday, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade prohibited the medicine and any formulations from being shipped outside of the country, except for companies that must fulfill existing contracts and on humanitarian grounds that would have to be approved on a case-by-case basis by the Ministry of External Affairs.
The move comes amid heightened speculation over the extent to which the drug can be effective in combating the novel coronavirus, since clinical trials have not been conducted for use in Covid-19 patients. The drug, which is also approved to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, is among four medicines that will be the focus of a large study announced last week by the World Health Organization.
In recent weeks, the medicine was the subject of several medical papers suggesting a degree of effectiveness in Covid-19 patients, prompting doctors to write prescriptions and hospitals in the U.S. to place orders. Last Friday, after Trump talked up the drug, 1.5 million tablets were been ordered, but just 12% of orders were filled. Orders have jumped 2,196% since the pandemic was declared.