“Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Thank you Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight!”
India’s 1.3 billion residents have been forced into lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak. New Delhi decided over the weekend to limit exports of hydroxychloroquine, citing pressing domestic needs.
It is unclear to what extent Trump’s criticism of the move and warnings that India might face “retaliation” contributed to Modi’s change of heart.
On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava announced that India would license both hydroxychloroquine and some other medication “in view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic,” not just to neighboring countries but to “some nations who have been particularly badly affected.”
The US now accounts for over 400,000 of the 1.47 million global cases of Covid-19 — and over 13,000 of the world’s almost 87,000 deaths.
Srivastava did hedge the statement by noting that the medication would be exported “in appropriate quantities” and “dependent on our capabilities,” and warned against “any speculation in this regard or any attempts to politicize the matter.”
India produces some 70 percent of HCQ in the world, according to some estimates. The drug has been used for decades to treat malaria and lupus, but a number of doctors say they have used it with great success to treat Covid-19 as well.
Though Trump has promoted the drug as a possible game-changing treatment — and the US medical regulator FDA has given it approval for off-label use — US media and the medical establishment have been skeptical, insisting that more clinical trials are needed.