UK-India ties exemplified by paracetamol trade

By Meghna Misra-Elder

’Now is the time for global leaders and communities to unite in solidarity to stop COVID-19 and its shattering consequences’ - this is a phrase I’ve heard very frequently over the last few weeks and it’s great to see global leaders truly coming together to take joint action against this pandemic.

One such example is India’s decision, after careful consideration, to lift the ban it put in place in response to COVID-19 on exports of paracetamol to the UK.

On 3rd March India announced that it would ban the exports of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients (and thus medicines made from them) which included paracetamol amongst other antibiotics. India imports a significant proportion of ingredients for manufacture of various drugs from China. However, due to border closures, the supply from China was curtailed, causing India to take the decision to ban exports. Other countries in the world have had to take similar steps to ensure they have sufficient supply for their own citizens.

However, the announcement was met with some concern in the UK, due to the benefits of maintaining a large supply of paracetamol at this time. Pharmacies across the country were forced to restrict consumers from buying more than 1 packet at a time to ensure that they can support as many people as possible. This shortage was a concern not only in the UK but other European markets where India accounts for around one quarter of generic drug imports.

Following direct discussions between the UK’s International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, and her Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, the ban was subsequently lifted and the UK Government announced on 14th April that the Government of India had approved the export of 2.8 million packets of paracetamol to the UK. This is a great example of our two countries coming together, especially now in a time of need.

This, we feel, illustrates the closeness of the UK-India relationship and how pragmatic decisions can be taken when governments engage constructively. We at the UKIBC are also encouraged by what this type of collaboration means for the forthcoming JETCO bilateral between the two Ministers, which we hope can take place as soon as travel restrictions permit.

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