India is the biggest manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that is being touted as 'game-changer' in the fight against COVID-19 and is being aggressively sought by US President Donald Trump.
The country has the capacity to quickly ramp up the output of hydroxychloroquine.
Amid the increasing demand for the drug, pharma giant Zydus Cadila which alsos one of the two largest manufactueres of HCQ has now increaseed it production by 10 times to 30 metric tonnes. This amounts to nearly 15 crore tablets of 200 mg per month.
The company is helping the government to build a stock of 10 crore dosages of the drug said chairman Pankaj Patel. He said that this is not the time to make money and they will be supplying the drug to ICMR at a lower price- probably a little over Rs 3 per tablet.
He said that they have enough stock in the country. Moreover, the company has also accelarated research for a vaccine and has entered the animal testing stage and if everything goes as per the plan, the company may lauch its vaccine by January next year.
Days after it added the drug to the list of more than two dozen APIs that cannot be exported while officials get a handle on how much will be needed for COVID-19 outbreak in the country, India on Tuesday agreed to lift the ban after Trump sought supplies for the US.
India manufactures 70 per cent of the world's supply of hydroxychloroquine, according to Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) secretary-general Sudarshan Jain.
The country has a production capacity of 40 tonnes of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) every month, implying 20 crore tablets of 200 mg each. And since the drug is also used to auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, manufacturers have good production capacities that can also be ramped up.
Ipca Laboratories, Zydus Cadila and Wallace Pharmaceuticals are top pharma companies manufacturing HCQ in India.
Jain says the production capacity is sufficient to meet the current demand and if the need arises, the companies are committed to ramping up production.
Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had reportedly placed an order for around 10 crore tables of HCQ with Ipca laboratories and Zydus Cadila.
The drug is not manufactured in developed nations such as the US because of non-existent malaria.
Hydroxychloroquine is very similar to chloroquine, one of the oldest and best-known anti-malarial drugs, but with lesser side-effects. It can be bought over the counter and fairly inexpensive.
But its purchase and use has been severely restricted as it was selectively used in the treatment of coronavirus because of its antiviral properties.