In view of surge in the demand for anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) amidst the coronavirus pandemic, pharmaceutical companies in Gujarat have stepped up efforts to ramp up its production for domestic as well as global markets, a senior official said on Sunday.
Hemant Koshia, Commissioner of Food and Drugs Control Administration (FDCA), Gujarat, told PTI that the government granted 20 product licences to 13 companies recently.
The efficacy of HCQ, traditionally used for treating Malaria and rheumatoid arthritis, as a possible treatment for COVID-19 disease is currently being tested.
Earlier this month, India, which is the largest producer of HCQ globally, decided to partially lift the ban on its export in sync with its global commitment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Even before the global rush for HCQ started, a total of 28 companies in Gujarat, a major pharmaceutical hub in the country, were in possession of the licence to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and formulations for the drug, Koshia said.
"More pharmaceutical companies approached the state government for securing the manufacturing licence, especially after its importance in fight against coronavirus came to light and after India lifted brief ban on its export," he said.
Koshia further said the Gujarat FDCA a few days back granted 20 product licences to 13 existing pharmaceuticalcompanies to manufacture both the APIs and formulations for the drug, considering its importance in fight against COVID-19.
"Before COVID-19 outbreak, there were 28 companies in Gujarat which are actively engaged in manufacturing of API (3) and formulation (25) for HCQ, both for domestic consumption and exports. "These companies were earlier granted 67 product licences, of which 35 were for export permission and 32 for domestic," Koshia said.
He said seven of the 21 product licences granted to 13 companies were for the purpose of export. "A few of these companies have the licence to manufacture both raw materials and formulations," he said.
Some of the pharmaceutical companies granted licences to manufacture HCQ are Sun Pharma, Stallion Labs, Ratnamani Healthcare, Merit Organics, Umedica Labs, among others, he added.
According to Koshia, Gujarat, which is witnessing a steady rise in coronavirus cases, was probably the first state to place order for one crore HCQ tablets in March.
"The state has already received delivery of 50 lakh tablets from Cadila Pharma which will be supplied to government hospitals," Koshia said. At present, India is in the process of supplying HCQ to 55 cronavirus-hit countries.