In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, suddenly India seems to have become relied upon as the world's primary producer of the drug Hydroxychloroquine, promoted by Donald Trump as a potential means of dealing with the virus. Even Trump himself has praised India on its production of the drug.

What political factors have led India to become the primary international source for the drug?

  • 3
    The same way China become main supplier for US army - tents for example are done mostly in China. It is because of de-industrialization of the West. Apr 9, 2020 at 14:40
  • 2
    It should be noted that there is no consensus that it works against coronavirus and it had rather nasty side effects.
    – pjc50
    Apr 27, 2020 at 20:50

1 Answer 1


India is a large producer of Hydroxychloroquine because, prior to the promotion of the drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19, its most widespread use was as an anti-malarial drug. India has, according to the WHO's World malaria report 2019, the largest proportion of malaria cases outside of Africa:

Nineteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India carried almost 85% of the global malaria burden.

The report also notes that India is the only one of the "high burden to high impact" countries (basically countries most affected by malaria) to have significant domestic investment into dealing with the disease compared to the reliance on international aid. This has manifested itself in the form of pharmaceutical manufacturers which can supply India with its domestic demand for the drug, such as Zydus Cadila and Ipca Laboratories.

This Forbes article notes that these companies in particular have significant capacity to ramp up production:

“The priority is to manufacture this drug versus anything else,” says Sharvil Patel, managing director at Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila, which had $1.9 billion in revenues in fiscal 2019. “We have ramped up our production of hydroxychloroquine from 3 metric tons per month to 20 to 30 metric tons per month and can scale it up further to 40 to 50 metric tons if there is a requirement.”

Ipca Labs, which has 20-metric-ton capacity, can produce 100 million tablets a month. “The Indian government has placed a significant order,” says Ajit Kumar Jain, joint managing director of Ipca Labs. “We can increase our manufacturing capacity to 26 metric tons in a month or two. We are also simultaneously ramping up our packing and labelling lines.”


Sudarshan Jain, secretary general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, an industry group, says that “the domestic demand is 3 million tablets a month but we have the capacity to go up to 150 million to 200 million tablets a month easily.” He adds that “it is very difficult to predict demand going forward because we do not know how many will be affected.”

This is, of course, on top of the underlying fact that India is, according to Raconteur, the largest provider of generic drugs globally, with its pharmaceutical industry is growing by 7 to 8 per cent a year, with growth of 11 to 13 percent expected in 2020.

It seems that India's prominence in the manufacture of the drug is due to existing infrastructure due to high existing domestic demand, and a strong underlying pharmaceutical industry, giving it the ability to quickly scale up production levels.

  • Not really sure, but I think that India can also scale the industry due to less environment regulation. Making pharmaceutics sometimes involves working with highly toxic chemicals that are very hard to deal with in the West due to more several environmental regulation (especially in EU).
    – Alexei
    Apr 9, 2020 at 20:11
  • @Alexei you're probably correct, I couldn't find a reputable source for that when I posted my answer, but that would help explain why the pharma industry is so big in India, at least for generic medicines.
    – CDJB
    Apr 9, 2020 at 20:13

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