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India partially lifted a ban on the exports of a malaria drug, Hydroxychloroquine after US President Donald Trump sought supplies for the country which has recorded more than 10,00 deaths due to COVID-19.
Speaking from the White House during a Coronavirus taskforce briefing, US President Donald Trump on April 6 hinted at a possible retaliation if India does not lift its ban on the export of Hydroxychloroquine.
India, the world's largest manufacturer of generic drugs and Hydroxychloroquine has decided to export the anti-malaria drug and paracetamol based on the availability of stock and after meeting domestic requirements and current orders. Shipments will be restricted and permission will be on humanitarian grounds.
Very similar to Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine is one of the oldest anti-malarial drugs. It can also treat auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The drug can tame an overactive immune system and has been used since the 1940s to prevent and treat malaria. It's sold with the brand name Plaquenil in the United States. Doctors can prescribe it for several other purposes, as many now are doing for COVID-19.
The drug, which is most wanted by several nations, is used to treat malaria and also has some significant side effects which include headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, weight loss and mood swings.
It can lead to heart rhythm problems, low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.
Trump's constant recommendation of the drug has resulted in many Americans to stock up the drug, irrespective of whether they need it or not.
China, Europe and South Korea recommend it as one of effective treatments for COVID-19 patients.
Early in March, Trump promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, saying: "I sure as hell think we ought to give it a try." He also tweeted that the use of the drug in combination with azithromycin, an antibiotic, could be "one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine".
On Sunday, Trump again touted hydroxychloroquine, claiming "there are some very strong, powerful signs" of its potential as a COVID-19 therapy.
Some preliminary studies have given conflicting results. One study suggested that the drug restricted the virus' ability to enter cells. Another report found it did not improve how fast patients recovered from the virus or their symptoms.
Last week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave hydroxychloroquine with an "emergency use authorization" to use on coronavirus patients in some specific conditions. State officials in New York claimed that about 4,000 seriously infected patients are now being cured with the drug.
Trump was motivated by a study conducted in France where 40 coronavirus patients were given hydroxychloroquine, with more than half getting cured within 3-6 days.
The French health ministry has issued a warning against the use of the drug for COVID-19, saying that it shouldn't be used by anyone with the exception of "serious forms of hospitalization and on the collegial decision of doctors and under strict medical supervision".
The French study initially suggested that hydroxychloroquine can reduce the infections from COVID-19, by blocking it from entering cells in the body.
But recently, a research from China has shown that one patient who was given hydroxychloroquine witnessed worsened conditions while four patients on the medicine developed liver damage and experienced diarrhea.
Hence, any drug used for a certain treatment before complete clinical trials are completed can be dangerous.
Chinese research also suggests that using hydroxychloroquine is no way better than bed rest, antiviral drugs and oxygen inhalation. Scientists across the world are rummaging to identify drugs that may be suitable and effective to tackle COVID-19. But this, too, shall take time.
While several push for hand-washing as the only effective way to slow the path of COVID-19, several national leaders are desperate to find a medicine that can tackle the virus. President Trump's cheerleading for anti-malarial drug has led to hopes which are not backed by scientific facts.
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