NEW DELHI: Members of the Saarc bloc and Indonesia and the UAE have requested India to lift the export ban on hydroxychloroquine, as they stare at a shortage of the drug primarily used for rheumatoid arthritis and long-term auto immune disease lupus.

Hydroxychloroquine received global attention recently after US President Donald Trump made claims that the drug was effective on Covid-19 patients. India is the largest exporter of hydroxychloroquine in the world, and companies that ET spoke to also confirmed they had received requests to airlift the drug from India.

The Department of Pharmaceuticals in a meeting held on Friday asked India’s drug price regulator to examine and see if India has enough stock and can also fulfil the demand of Saarc countries.

Other than hydroxychloroquine, the list from Saarc countries contains paracetamol, vitamins, hormones and some medical equipment. “The requirement to lift the ban on exports is for specific consignments,” an official said. These countries are facing an acute shortage of the formulations. The Indian Council of Medical Research has recommended the drug for front-line workers and high-risk people who were in contact with Covid-19 patients.

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