NEW DELHI: The Indian Council for Medical Research has maintained that anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine “may be working” in preventing Covid 19 and there are not many safety concerns related to the medicine, indicating that its recommendation of the drug for coronavirus prophylaxis will continue.
The statement by ICMR came even as the World Health Organisation on Monday suspended HCQ arm of the global Solidarity Trial, to assess whether some repurposed drugs are working to cure or improve Covid 19. There are four other drug or drug combinations also being tested in the trial, in which India is also taking part.
“What we found from observational studies and from case-control studies (on the use of HCQ for Covid 19 prophylaxis) is that it may be working, and we also found that there were no major side-effects except nausea, vomiting and occasional palpitations in some cases," said Dr Balram Bhargava, ICMR director general at a press briefing on Tuesday.
HCQ was earlier recommended for Covid 19 prophylaxis in healthcare workers and close contacts of positive patients, but the Centre last week suggested it to a broader category of frontline workers including police personnel and field workers involved in Covid 19 containment plans.
WHO, on the other hand, while announcing that it will be temporarily suspending the hydroxychloroquine arm of its Solidarity Trial cited an observational study in The Lancet journal which estimated higher mortality rate among patients given the medicine.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial, particularly robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.
Sources in the health research body did say that the ICMR is now planning to drop HCQ from the infection treatment plan in line with the WHO move and a revised advisory could be released any moment.
In India, apart from its usage for prohylaxis the government has also recommended HCQ, along with antibiotic azithromycin,a for all severely sick Covid 19 patients.
Meanwhile while WHO feels that randomised control trials are best way to ascertain efficacy of a drug, ICMR which has been criticized heavily for not maintaining the high scientific standards, stated otherwise.
“We firmly believe that RCTs (randomised control trials) are the best way to ascertain whether a drug or intervention is safe & efficacious for treatment or prevention of COVID. Our independent DSMB (data safety monitoring board) and steering committee guide all decisions and have acted with abundant caution," WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Vishwanathan tweeted on Tuesday.
Bhargava in the press briefing however said that randomised control trials are difficult to do for a drug that “could only potentially benefit, which is why the organisation did not go forward with a RCT”.