Context:India recently announced that it had rescinded its earlier ban on the export of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which is now being used in countries such as the U.S. as a possible line of treatment for coronavirus pandemic.

More about the news:

  • Overturning the previous decision:
    • In a notification on March 25, the government placed HCQ on a restricted items list, and then put a blanket ban on any export of the drug on April 4. 
    • India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade had prohibited export of the anti-malarial drug.
    • The latest decision, which was taken at a high level meeting on April 6, effectively overturns the previous notification.

Utility of HCQ with respect to COVID 19:

  • It is being studied as an experimental treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
  • Hydroxychloroquine is an interferon blocker ,and works by diminishing the immune system’s response against a viral disease.
    • A hyperactive response of the immune system is said to be primarily responsible for pneumonia caused by severe COVID-19.
    • Interferons:They are a group of signaling proteins made and released by host cells in response to the presence of several viruses.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommends the use of hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic (preventive care) for asymptomatic healthcare workers and contacts of people who have been infected by the virus. 
    • The ICMR’s decision on wider use of the drug will depend on further research.
  • On a global level:
    • A study by Chinese researchers, in February, for instance, showed that the drug speeded up the recovery of COVID-19 patients who had suffered pneumonia.
    • In International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (IJAA) few French scientists reported that Azithromycin (an antibiotic) added to hydroxychloroquine was significantly more efficient for virus elimination 
    • Moreover some of the early naysayers of the drug, including the US Food and Drug Administration, have now come around to recommending its use in emergency situations. 
  • Unproven drug: However dosages are linked to instances of cardiac arrhythmia and liver damage. Wide usage may actually handicap patients ability to fight the infection.

Rationale Behind Revoking the Export Ban:

  • In line with Humanitarian aspects of the pandemic:
    • It has been decided that India would licence paracetamol and HCQ in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities.
  • Demands worldwide:
    • The U.S had urged India to relax India’s ban on hydroxychloroquine tablets so that the drug can be used to treat America’s COVID-19 patients.
    • Brazil has also urged India to lift the ban on hydroxychloroquine as India is one of the global leaders in the production of the drug .

Way Ahead:

  • Clarification by the government:Despite the requirement, the government has clarified that it had assessed current stocks of HCQ and other drugs that had been freed for export,which were sufficient for all possible contingencies.
  • Indian drug manufacturers say that they have sufficient stockpiles enough to export.But there are reports of stocks running out and rheumatoid arthritis patients finding them unavailable in stores.



About Hydroxychloroquine:

  • It is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria in areas where malaria remains sensitive to chloroquine. 
  • This medication is also used, usually with other medications, to treat certain auto-immune diseases (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis) when other medications have not worked or cannot be used. 
  • It is taken via the oral route.
  • It is sold under the brand name Plaquenil among others. 
  • It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system.


Directorate General of Foreign Trade(DGFT)

  • Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) organisation is an attached office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and is headed by Director General of Foreign Trade. 
  • Right from its inception till 1991, when liberalization in the economic policies of the Government took place, this organization has been essentially involved in the regulation and promotion of foreign trade through regulation. 
  • Keeping in line with liberalization and globalization and the overall objective of increasing exports, DGFT has since been assigned the role of “facilitator”. The shift was from prohibition and control of imports/exports to promotion and facilitation of exports/imports, keeping in view the interests of the country.
  • DGFT is the main governing body in matters related to Exim Policy


Image Source: Indiamart