Kenya buys drug from India ahead of virus mass tests

Friday May 01 2020

Kenya has joined the countries “repurposing” the banned antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine for emergency use ahead of mass testing for Covid-19.

The country has ordered a one-off consignment of 379,000 tablets of the hydroxychloroquine from India just three weeks after the Asian nation partially lifted a ban on the export of the drug.

The deal follows last week’s telephone conversation between Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary (CS) Raychelle Omamo and India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

“In keeping with excellent bilateral ties and as a special gesture, India has allowed one-time export of prohibited Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate USP 200 mg (379,000 tablets) to Kenya to support Government of Kenya in its fight against Covid-19 pandemic,” said a communique from the Indian government.

In early April, India partially lifted a ban on the exports of the malaria drug after President Donald Trump sought supplies for the US, which has topped the world’s Covid-19 casualties with more than a million confirmed cases and more than 60,000 deaths. Kenya, which reported its first case of Covid-19 on March 13, has reported 396 confirmed cases.

Hydroxychloroquine, which has been approved for Covid-19 treatment in Jordan, the US, France and China, has been tested and found to strengthen cells in the respiratory tract where the coronavirus punctures and releases its genetic material.


Laboratory findings published by medRxiv, an online server for medical articles, show the alkaline-based Hydroxychloroquine protects the cell from becoming acidic, an environment that enables coronaviruses to multiply.

“The end result is the coronavirus is bumped out of cells and cannot infect them. (How azithromycin contributes to this process isn’t clear yet, but doctors suspect that it may quell the worst respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 by reducing inflammation caused by the viral infection in the lungs.),” it said.

On Thursday, CS Omamo and her Indian counterpart confirmed the arrival of the second tranche of essential drugs — HIV medicines worth $154 million — in Nairobi, a gift to Kenya by the Government of India.