A consignment of five million tablets of hydroxychloroquine from India arrived in Toronto Tuesday as part of a cooperation agreement between both countries in the fight against COVID-19.
It arrived a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke by phone with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Both leaders had agreed on the importance of global solidarity and coordination, the maintenance of supply chains, and collaborative research activities.
India has exported close to three million hydroxychloroquine tablets to 87 other countries as demand for the drug surges from around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ambassador to Mexico Manpreet Vohra announce Monday that India had cleared a commercial export of 2.50 metric tons of the drug to Mexico.
President Donald Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as a promising treatment for coronavirus. The drug has come under fire from critics in the U.S. who pointed to a recent analysis of its use with patients hospitalized in Veterans Health Administration medical centers. The study concluded that hydroxychloroquine showed no benefits and more deaths among patients treated with the drug.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie defended the department’s use of the drug last Wednesday, noting that it was only being administered for high-risk veterans.
In a letter sent to veterans organizations, Wilkie stated that the analysis led to “misinformation” about what was taking place at its facilities. He said that hydroxychloroquine was only being given to veterans at the “highest risk prior to receiving medication.”
Wilkie also asserted that the treatment was not an experimental drug, noting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had authorized its emergency use when clinical trials are not available.
In April the FDA issued a warning regarding the known side effects of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. It said that the side effects include serious and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems. It added that the drug has received Emergency Use Authorization for the treatment with risks already in the drug labels.
“The FDA will continue to monitor and investigate these potential risks and will communicate publicly when more information is available,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn in a statement.
Canadian health authorities issued a warning last Saturday against the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus infections or prevent reinfections.
“Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can have serious side effects. These drugs should be used only under the supervision of a physician,” Canada’s public health agency said in a note posted on its website.
A national task force in India recommended the drug for frontline workers as prophylaxis. It was approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for restricted use in an emergency situation under the supervision of a registered medical professional.