Hydroxychloroquine: Desperate Trump warns India of retaliation over ‘corona drug’ export
Saying that since “India has been taking advantage of the US on trade”, President Donald Trump said he would be surprised if New Delhi was to stop export of Hydroxychloroquine to Washington.
As the US grapples with the rising number of coronavirus deaths and cases, President Donald Trump has warned India of "retaliation" if it does not lift hold on the export of hydroxychloroquine -- the anti-malarial drug used to treat coronavirus patients. Trump has said he would be surprised if India did not allow the export of Hydroxychloroquine tablets to the US despite a request made to New Delhi over the subject.
Last week Trump said that he has sought help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow the sale of Hydroxychloroquine tablets ordered by the US to treat the growing number of coronavirus patients in his country, hours after India banned the export of the anti-malarial drug.
“I would be surprised if he would, you know, because India does very well with the United States,” Trump told reporters during a press briefing at the White House on Monday.
Hydroxychloroquine tablet is used to prevent and treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, among other ailments.
The drug is seen as to offer a viable therapeutic solution to coronavirus that has so far taken the lives of more than 10,000 Americans and infected over 3.6 lakhs, just in a matter of weeks.
Last month, India imposed a ban on export on Hydroxychloroquine, on which Trump is now banking heavily in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
India has received similar requests from several other countries including its immediate neighbours like Sri Lanka and Nepal. India has said that it is reviewing its export ban order.
Notably, India's decision to ban the exports of Hydroxychloroquine is driven by its desire to take stock of the domestic requirements and ensure that the country has enough in its kitty.
Reiterating that for many years, India has been taking advantage of the US on trade, Trump said that he would be surprised if New Delhi was to stop export of Hydroxychloroquine to the US.
“So, I would be surprised if that were his decision. He'd have to tell me that. I spoke to him Sunday morning, called him, and I said we'd appreciate your allowing our supply to come out. If he doesn't allow it to come out, that would be okay, but of course there may be retaliation. Why wouldn't there be?” Trump said.
On Monday, a senior State Department official said that India has been a significant partner of the US in the pharmaceutical sector and it expects similar cooperation to continue between the economies.
“India has long been a significant partner of the United States and the pharmaceutical sector,” Alice G Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, told reporters during a press briefing.
The Trump administration has already created a national strategic stockpile of 29 million doses of the malaria drug, anticipating that its test results on more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients in New York is yielding positive results.
Scientists have begun testing Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as candidates for potential COVID-19 treatments and the FDA last week issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the prescription of the drugs in certain circumstances.
In addition to New York, COVID-19 patients in several States are being treated with Hydroxychloroquine, including Michigan and Texas.
Experts, White House clash over use of malaria drug
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro acknowledged that members of the task force dealing with the coronavirus crisis clashed over the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine for use against the disease.
Navarro had a heated exchange with Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Axios reported.
Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, and other top health advisers have argued there is not enough data from the limited studies that have been done to prove the drug is effective against COVID-19, the sometimes deadly respiratory illness caused by the virus.
Navarro has been appointed by Trump to oversee the administration's implementation of the Defense Production Act to help produce scarce medical supplies. While acknowledging he has no scientific background, Navarro said he believed the hydroxychloroquine studies done so far were convincing.
"There was that discussion on Saturday," Navarro said in an interview with CNN. "If we didn't have disagreements and debate the Trump administration would not be as strong as it is."
The dispute illustrated the tensions between the White House's scientific and health experts and other policymakers or advisers in the administration with no medical or research training, led by the President himself, who have been pushing the malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxycloroquine, for use during the coronavirus crisis.
Trump has made his opinion on the drug well known and personally pressed federal health officials to make them available to treat coronavirus.
The President has repeatedly pushed the drug as a potential treatment, calling it a "game-changer" with little evidence to support that claim. He touted it again on Sunday, adding "But what do I know? I'm not a doctor."
However, when Fauci, who is a doctor, was asked a question about the drug at the same task force briefing, Trump cut in and blocked him from answering, "Do you know how many times he’s answered that question? Maybe 15."
At Saturday's meeting of the task force, Navarro told CNN, "there was unanimous agreement that FEMA would immediately begin surging hydroxy into the hot zones to be dispensed only between a doctor and a patient decision not the federal government." He said there were 29 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine sitting in a warehouse.
Navarro said that patients in the New York hospital system that come in presenting symptoms of COVID-19 are given a cycle of hydroxychloroquine, which may help reduce inflammation caused by the immune system's response to the virus.
A city health official said on Monday that many patients at New York’s 11 public hospitals have been given hydroxycloroquine as part of treatment regimen, but it was too soon to tell if it was effective.
"We’re still looking at the data, but right now we’re willing to try just about anything to save patients," said Dr Eric Wei, vice President and chief quality officer for NYC Health + Hospitals.
Navarro argued there were now "numerous scientific studies that indicate potential efficacy," including one published in the last few days involving Wuhan, China, where the virus first surfaced, that he said was one of the first randomized studies.
"All my role has been in this is to suggest that we have this in the stockpiles and that you should have that discussion about whether we should surge this in the task force," he said.