© Reuters / Lindsey Wasson
Praising the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure for Covid-19 and claiming he would take a pill himself, if infected, US President Donald Trump has urged Indian PM Narendra Modi to lift a ban on its exports.

The federal government has already accumulated some 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in its national stockpiles, and is seeking to acquire more, even though the drug's effectiveness against Covid-19 is still being tested and remains questionable.

"After a call today with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is giving serious consideration to releasing the hold it put on a US order for hydroxychloroquine," Trump announced at a White House coronavirus task force briefing.

COVID-19: India likely to ease some drug export curbs after U.S. pressure soon, says sources

India will likely relax some export restrictions on pharmaceutical products soon due to intense pressure from the United States which is worried about drug shortages as the number of coronavirus cases surge, two Indian government officials told Reuters.

India, which supplies more than a quarter of the world's generic drugs, last month restricted exports of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients and the medicines made from them. The move was seen as an attempt to secure supplies for its domestic population after the outbreak played havoc with the industry's supply chain globally.

The restrictions are not complete bans but impede sales of drug and drug ingredients overseas by specifying circumstances for their export and requiring firms to procure a "no objection" certificate from the government.
Imports from India accounted for 24% of medicines and 31% of medicine ingredients to the United States in 2018, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Drawing fresh criticism for irresponsibly promoting an untested and potentially even dangerous treatment, a passionately optimistic Trump insisted that Covid-19 patients must have a choice.

What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it... try it, if you'd like.
"I may take it," added Trump, who has previously tested negative twice for the coronavirus. He immediately clarified, however, that he will "have to ask my doctors about that" first.
It is not the first time that various drugs usually used to treat malaria have received high-profile promotion as a potential "game changer" against the coronavirus infection by everyone from US President Donald Trump and the US Department of Health to Russian medical specialists. The resulting panic-buying and shortages for those who use them to treat other conditions, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, forced the Indian government to halt the export of hydroxychloroquine last month, with no end date in sight.

The drugs, which suppress the immune system, like hydroxychloroquine, are often seen as potentially helpful against Covid-19 because the virus over-stimulates an immune response which can cause organ failure. Yet, they appear to be ineffective against the virus itself.