NEW DELHI: Anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine seems to be emerging as medicine of choice for treating Covid-19 patients, in the absence of a more targeted treatment yet, but there is little empirical evidence to conclude it works in patients afflicted with novel coronavirus. The renewed focus on the drug comes after US President Donald Trump in a telephonic conversation with PM Narendra Modi reportedly asked him to remove the export ban on Hydroxychloroquine — a day after India, its biggest manufacturer — declared it won’t send the medicine outside.
In India, the drug along with antibiotic Azithromycin was recently included in the clinical management guideline for Covid-19 patients — replacing anti-HIV drugs Lopinavir, Ritonavir— by the Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research with the rider that the two drugs should be given only those needing ICU care. “These drugs should be administered under close medical supervision, with monitoring for side effects, including QTc interval,” the guidelines said as the drug may cause cardio-toxicity.
The government also said that these medications are presently not recommended for children less than 12 years, pregnant and lactating women. “These guidelines are based on currently available information,” the ministry said. Sources said the revision had come as a study in the New England Journal said that the anti-HIV drug combination did not work in 199 patients analysed while another study from France said that the anti-malarial and antibiotic combination helped 78 out of 80 patients analysed.
There was another independent study from China to support Hydroxychloroquine-Azithromycin combination. “The government says the drug, along with Azithromycin should be given to severely ill patients and also asks certain high-risk groups to use it prophylactically— it’s contradictory,” said Dr Anupam Singh, an infectious disease expert.