Hydroxychloroquine becomes a Schedule H1 drug as hoarding leads to shortage

MUMBAI: On Thursday night the Ministry of Health through a special amendment has categorised hydroxychloroquine (HCQS) drug as a schedule H1 drug- which means it cannot be sold over the counter. The move comes as reports emerged of hoarding and shortage of this drug due to the national lockdown, this drug is prescribed as a chronic therapy for patients suffering from Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, an auto immune disease.

However the hoarding and shortage took place after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended the drug for front line workers and high risk people who were in contact with the Covid-19 patient. Reports have emerged that after this notice several common people were rushing to chemist shops to self medicate.

“The Central Government is satisfied that the drug ‘Hydroxychloroquine’ is essential to meet the requirements of emergency arising due to pandemic COVID-19 and in the public interest, it is necessary and expedient to regulate and restrict the sale and distribution of the drug ‘Hydroxychloroquine’ and preparation based thereon for preventing their misuse” the Health Minister’s notification said.

Therefore, the Ministry in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (23 of 1940), the Central Government has directed that sale by retail of any preparation containing the drug Hydroxychloroquine shall be in accordance with the conditions for sale of drugs specified in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.

Kolkata resident Barnali Mitra said that she was unable to find the drug anywhere in Kolkata as most chemist shops were reporting stock run outs as they were not getting supplies of these medicines. “I really hope these issues get sorted, I have stock only for 10 days”, said Ms Barnali who is a patient of Lupus.

Drug maker IPCA, which is the largest manufacturer of HCQS tablets in India said that looking at hoarding and stock outs, the company is supplying the drugs only in hospitals. Mumbai based Wallace Pharma that also manufactures the hydroxychloroquine, on Tuesday reported that its manufacturing facility was not allowed to remain open and hence they were not able to manufacture the drug. Bulk drug prices of the raw materials required to produce these medicines have also shot up.

China that used to sell these raw materials for $20 per kg, has increased the price of this to $60. Companies have requested the government to instruct state governments and local cops to intervene and allow these establishments and its people to operate.

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