India bans export of key malaria drug amid coronavirus outbreak

People gather at a pharmacy to buy supplies following the Indian Prime Minister's announcement of a government-imposed nationwide lockdown, in Mumbai on March 24, 2020.
People gather at a pharmacy to buy supplies following the Indian Prime Minister's announcement of a government-imposed nationwide lockdown, in Mumbai on March 24, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - The Indian government said on Wednesday (March 25) that it is banning the export of hydroxychloroquine and formulations made from the medication, as experts test the efficacy of the drug in helping treat patients infected with COVID-19.

There are currently no approved treatments, or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the highly contagious, sometimes deadly respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. Researchers are studying existing treatments and working on experimental ones, but most current patients receive only supportive care such as breathing assistance.

Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, is among the medications that are being tested, as a potential treatment for patients with the disease. Earlier this week, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), which maintains a list of drug shortages, said hydroxychloroquine was in shortage.