NEW DELHI: While WHO has suspended HCQ trials, stoking further doubts about the efficacy of the drug in dealing with Covid-19, India is unlikely to roll back its medicine diplomacy in haste. The government, however, has asked its missions to check with countries it was looking to donate HCQ to if they still wanted the antimalarial drug.
The abundance of HCQ helped Indian companies honour commercial agreements but, more importantly, it also allowed the Indian government to up its game in far corners of the world, and where China has worked actively to provide Covid-related assistance, by donating HCQ tablets in large numbers.
India has so far approved supply of HCQ tablets purely as grant assistance to 76 countries, 47 of which are in Latin America, Caribbean and Africa. Until May 22, 24 out of 76 countries had already received HCQ tablets from India.
Following a report by The Lancet medical journal, which suggested HCQ could endanger the lives of Covid-19 patients, the WHO on Monday announced a “temporary pause” of HCQ trials for the novel coronavirus as a precautionary measure. In India though, the use of the drug has been expanded from, as the ICMR said Tuesday, healthcare workers to frontline workers also, considering the “potential benefits”.
“We are also asking our missions to check if the countries who have not yet received HCQ supplies still want it as the medicine is used for other ailments too,” said a source involved in procurement for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
India’s donation of HCQ, a drug endorsed repeatedly by US President Donald Trump as a panacea for Covid-19, has further underscored its image as “pharmacy of the world”. On both commercial and grant basis, India has already supplied medicines to 133 countries (close to 500 million HCQ tablets and 1.54 billion Paracetamol tablets).
India is looking to provide 10 million HCQ tablets to 76 countries out of which 2.94 million tablets have already been delivered to 24 countries. Nearly 7 million of these have been approved for donation to Latin America, Caribbean and African countries. In Africa, India had earmarked 100000 tablets each for 19 countries.
Among the 24 who have already received HCQ as donation from India are also neighbours like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Maldives.
As part of its Mission SAGAR, India has also donated 5 lakh HCQ tablets to Mauritius, 1 lakh to Madagascar and 0.5 lakh each to Seychelles, Comoros and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. India is also looking to donate these tablets to other Indian Ocean Rim countries like Mozambique and Kenya.

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