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Hydroxychloroquine is manufactured in India from ingredients produced in China; if we need this drug, will they send it to us when they need it even more than we do?

2020-04-07

photo courtesy of qimono (Arek Socha) via pixabay.com

India produces 70% of the world’s supply of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and they claim to have enough production capacity, according to an article on livemint.com (an Indian publication).  This drug is available over the counter for malaria treatment and prophylaxis (prevention).  The government of India, however, initially embargoed export of their stocks of HCQ and two dozen others.  After a personal phone call from our Dear Leader to the head of the Indian government, Narendra Modi, this embargo was reversed.   According to the article, He threatened to “retaliate” if India embargoed exports of HCQ and paracetamol (acetaminophen). To make things even more complicated, Indian manufacture of HCQ depends on imports of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) from China.  The article lists the major producers and suppliers of the API’s as well as export figures.  Apparently, India exported about 1-1/2 billion dollars worth of HCQ last year.

According to the article, India used about 24 million tablets of HCQ last year but can produce 200 million tablets.  That may change, as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended HCQ be used as a preventive medication for COVID-19 high-risk groups (despite the lack of conclusive research on treatment, much less prophylaxis).  This advice may cause demand for HCQ to spike dramatically since no prescription is required and the price is relatively low (by US standards).

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Smolar permalink
    2020-04-13 6:58 AM

    This drug is available over the counter for malaria treatment and prophylaxis (prevention), in India. It is only available under the direction of a doctor in the US. Is the US customer multiple levels more ignorant than the Indian customer in basic health practice?

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    • 2020-04-13 7:20 AM

      No. HCQ is over-the-counter in India to allow for reduced cost to Indian consumers. The system in the US is set up to provide work and money to middle-men like pharmacists and doctors. No doubt, many more drugs could be OTC in the US and it would save the consumer vast amounts of money. Once a drug is approved OTC by the FDA, the price stops going up, and in fact sometimes goes down. Prescription drugs have continually increasing prices year by year because there is insurance that pays for prescription drugs– in patients who have insurance– and the insurance will pay, within reason, for price increases because they can pass the cost on to the consumer in the form of higher insurance premiums.
      This is another example of the insidious, pernicious effect of unbridled capitalism and the Byzantine bureaucracies in the US that support capitalist enterprises. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most expensive lobbying groups on Capitol Hill, and they call the shots when it comes to drug legislation. The drug companies, the insurance industry, and several others like AMA are big roadblocks to universal health care (Medicare For All) in this country.
      Now, you’ve gotten me started. I have to go back to work, but you should agitate against this example of unregulated capitalism that has a negative effect on the poorest Americans. If you live in India, you can buy HCQ and use it on yourself if you get sick (not for prevention). Just watch out for the cardiac effects (starting with prolonged QT interval) that may damage your heart just when you need it the most!

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