Ever since rumours started floating around that Hydroxychloroquine could help improve immunity against Covid-19, Patients of joint pain and malaria – diseases which it actually cures — are not getting enough tablets of the medicine in Punjab, due to acute shortage at stores and short supply from the manufacturing companies.
Chemist associations and the drug control department have admitted that the medicine has been completely sold out at majority of medical stores as people bought it in bulk, believing that it is a magic pill to protect them against Coronavirus.
“I have been getting calls from chemists from all over Punjab for its supply but I am not able to help them. Most of the shops have run out of the medicine. The lockdown has also severely hit the supply chain across the state, which is causing a lot of trouble,” said Surinder Duggal, President, Punjab Chemist Association.
Duggal says that Zirakpur city, which supplies 90 per cent of the medicines in Punjab, doesn’t have enough labourers to load and unload the medicines. “Besides, the stock available with the whole-sellers is very limited,” he added.
Pradeep Mattu, Drug Controller of Punjab, blames panic buying for the shortage. “By the time government imposed restrictions on its sale, people had already hoarded it like anything. If one person buys 200 tablets without any ailment, thinking that it will improve his immunity against COVID-19, scarcity is natural,” Mattu said.
The union government imposed restrictions on the sale of Hydroxychloroquine on March 25, 2020, when it realised that the medicine was overselling due to the misconception that it can improve immunity against Coronavirus. The government immediately regulated its sale with a provision that no chemist can sell it without a doctors’ prescription.
“After reports that Hydroxychloroquine showed positive effects on COVID-19 infected patients in France, and a consequent tweet from the US President, calling it a game-changer, the news went viral on social media. It is a generic drug which was available over the counter, so people have gone for crazy buying it,” said T.V. Narayana, National President, Indian Pharmaceutical Association.
He said that if an individual takes this medicine, thinking that it improves immunity, he or she is completely mistaken as this can cause adverse side-effects.
The Centre has already assured that India has enough raw material and manufacturing capacities to meet the domestic demand for Hydroxychloroquine. The United States has requested India to export Hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID – 19 patients in the country. The Centre has reportedly decided to export the medicine to friendly countries to fulfil their needs.