NEW DELHI: The results of the first randomised control trial to assess whether anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19 in those who may have already been exposed to the virus could dash the hopes of health policymakers pinning too much hope on the medicine.
The findings of the high-quality trial carried out in the USA and published in the New England Medical Journal has shown that coronavirus infection rate was same in two control groups—one taking HCQ and the other under placebo.
These results have major implications for India as in the country, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, on the advice of the Indian Council of Medical Research has recommended HCQ prophylaxis for healthcare workers treating infected patients and household contacts of positive cases, exposed to the virus.
Additionally, all healthcare workers not directly treating COVID-19 patients, field workers engaged in containment measures and police and security personnel have also been recommended the prescribed doses of the drug with the belief that it will help them avoid contracting the infection.
The latest research by infectious disease experts in the University of Minnenosta followed 821 adults who described a high-risk or moderate-risk exposure to someone with Covid-19 in their household or an occupational setting. They were then were provided HCQ or placebo within 4 days after the reported exposure, and before symptoms would be expected to develop.
The incidence of a new illness compatible with COVID-19 did not differ significantly between participants receiving hydroxychloroquine 49 of 414 (11.8%) and those receiving placebo -58 of 407 (14.3%).
In fact, participant-reported side effects were significantly more common in those receiving hydroxychloroquine (40.1%) than in those receiving placebo (16.8%) but no serious adverse reactions were reported- said the research findings.
Back home, the ICMR has been under constant fire for recommending HCQ prophylaxis for Covid 19 without any evidence. Just a few days back, it had published findings of a case-control study, not considered very highly scientifically, in its own journal which said that healthcare workers who take at least six or more doses HCQ are better placed to avoid contracting COVID-19 than those who take none or lesser doses.
The Council, however, had drawn more flak for not coming clean on the issue of “conflict of interest” as two of the paper’s authors included senior ICMR office bearers who were also responsible for writing advisories on prophylaxis even without any evidence.