W Balkan firms making chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus

SARAJEVO/BELGRADE, April 20 (Reuters) - Serbian and Bosnian drugmakers Galenika and Zada Pharmaceuticals said on Monday they had started producing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 patients after public interest sent demand soaring.

Sales of the drugs have surged around the world since U.S. President Donald Trump touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential weapon against the coronavirus.

The anti-malarial drugs are being tested for the new application in multiple clinical trials, and numerous companies have stepped up production.

In Serbia, which is gradually easing its lockdown and allow some businesses to open, Galenika has produced 372,000 tablets of chloroquine, sufficient for Serbia’s needs, Sanja Radojevic Skodric, the director of the state health insurance fund, told the public broadcaster RTS TV.

So far, 6,630 people in Serbia are confirmed to have been infected with the virus and 125 of them have died.

In neighbouring Bosnia, Zada Pharmaceuticals said it had made hydroxychloroquine tablets available to healthcare institutions, “given the shortage of all other parallels to this medicine”.

Bosnia has reported 1,309 coronavirus cases and 49 deaths.

India is the world’s top producer of hydroxychloroquine, a relatively cheap, generic drug also approved to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. (Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic and Maja Zuvela; Editing by Kevin Liffey)