New Delhi: The Centre has restricted sale and distribution of "hydroxychloroquine" declaring it as an essential drug to treat the COVID-19 patients and meet the requirements of emergency arising due to the pandemic.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday made the announcement making it clear that the order "shall come into force on the date of its publication in the official Gazette".
In the order, the government declared that 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".
"Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (23 of 1940), the Central govemment hereby directs 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."
The order came at a time when the novel coronavirus claimed 16 lives and infected over 600 people across India.
The announcement regarding ban of sale and distribution of the drug was made by the government earlier but it issued an official Gazette notification on Thursday signalling that hydroxychloroquine -- an anti-Malaria drug -- will work as a medicine for treating coronavirus infected patients as well.
Recently, the national task force for COVID-19 constituted by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended hydroxy-chloroquine as a preventive medication.
“The export of Hydroxychloroquine and formulations made from Hydroxychloroquine under any ITCHS Code… is prohibited with immediate effect,” the DGFT under the ministry said in the notification.
ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said that the compound is recommended only for a healthcare worker who is treating a Covid-19 patient.
“Secondly, it’s recommended only for persons staying and caring for a household positive patient. They can take that only for prophylaxis, only for prevention,” he added.
“Hydroxy-chloroquine is found to be effective against coronavirus in laboratory studies and in-vivo studies. Its use in prophylaxis is derived from the available evidence of benefit as treatment and supported by preclinical data,” the advisory said.