We are developing an understanding of Sars-CoV-2 also started to help us understand that the COVID-19 virus is more virulent, more dangerous, and, worryingly, much more evasive than its predecessor (in terms of vintage and terminology), Sars-CoV –1.
On Tuesday, India removed some restrictions on exports of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which some people, including US President Donald Trump, believe to be a miracle cure for COVID-19. There is no scientific proof of this, but that has not stopped some countries from trying to source more drugs.
India is the world’s largest manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine. It is also the largest exporter in the world. As interest soared about a miracle cure, India, on March 25, prohibits the export of hydroxychloroquine and any formulations that contain it – including exports from special economic zones. Blocked pending orders, including one from the United States.
Over the weekend, Trump spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asked for a ban to be removed for US orders. On Monday, in the usual fashion, he threatened “retaliation” if India did not do this, and also threw in a bit about how India has had the best of the US in the front of the trade (then, India has removed some restrictions). Hindustan Times learned that India has received a request for hydroxychloroquine from 20 countries, an indication of how desperate the government around the world is to explore every drug possible for a pandemic that has infected 1.39 million people and killed more than 79,000 worldwide.
On Tuesday, India said it will supply enough of the drug for domestic use, and then, depending on availability, enabling exporters to serve the order to start open. Decisions about whom to export to (and how many) will be taken by the pharmacy department.
India is a generic drug manufacturer in the world – and it does not get enough credit for this, something that is not fully explained by the fact that some Indian pharmaceutical companies have had regulatory issues and quality. Cipla’s Yusuf Hamied make AIDS drugs affordable, helping, among other countries, South Africa, but he did so after a bruising fight with Big Pharma.
Even as did his duty as a force that is responsible to assist other countries, India should use this opportunity to encourage bargain hard (or two) – for example, there are key drugs, including those for cancer, which should look to bring down the scope of either compulsory licensing or voluntary licensing, something that will make them accessible to millions of Indians. Indeed, India’s strong research and manufacturing base for generic drugs, vaccine development and manufacturing of healthy ecosystems, and natural advantages when it comes to testing the clinical stand to benefit (and bargaining) in the post-COVID.
Speaking about the demand for hydroxychloroquine, India’s health ministry itself wants to build a stockpile of 100 million tablets. It is part of the planning for the worst-case scenario.
Our understanding grows (it is limited) from Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, shows that it makes sense to prepare for the worst. New research at the University of Texas at Austin seems to indicate that, in the United States, even one case in the area could mean a 51% chance of an outbreak in the area. The researchers assumed that only one-tenth of the cases tested and reported – because of many mild infections, and many of the infected, asymptomatic (when appropriate at this time to remind everyone why masks are a must).
We are developing an understanding of Sars-CoV-2 also started to help us understand that the COVID-19 virus is more virulent, more dangerous, and, worryingly, much more evasive than its predecessor (in terms of vintage and terminology), -1 Sars-CoV, the virus that causes SARS outbreak in 2002-04. As Sars-CoV-2, the virus also originated in China, and infected more than 8,000 people in about 30 countries, killing 774.