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Despite risks, nearly 5,000 health workers take anti-malarial drug

Doctors suggested it would be better to check the ECG of the three health workers before administering them HCQ as there could be cardiovascular issues due to hydroxychloroquine.

Published: 27th April 2020 03:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th April 2020 03:39 AM   |  A+A-

hydroxychloroquine

hydroxychloroquine

Express News Service

KOCHI: When two health workers in Kochi contracted Covid-19 last month, the health department recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a preventive drug against the new coronavirus for three of their colleagues who were the close contacts of the patients. HCQ, an old anti-malarial drug, has been in limelight in recent weeks as a potential treatment for Covid-19. Doctors suggested it would be better to check the ECG of the three health workers before administering them HCQ as there could be cardiovascular issues due to hydroxychloroquine.

“Since it was voluntary, none of the three health workers took the HCQ dose even though their ECG showed no signs of cardiac issues,” said a health official. But, this incident seems to be an exception rather than a norm. It is learnt that at least 5,000 health workers, including doctors in Kerala have used HCQ, touted as the ‘magic drug’ for the Covid-19 treatment. Dr Vibha Santosh, faculty-internal medicine, Government Medical College, Ernakulam, told TNIE that the state government had issued guidelines for the use of HCQ on March 24, after the National Taskforce for Covid-19 constituted by the Indian Council for Medical Research recommended the use of HCQ for prophylaxis of SARS-Cov-2 for high-risk infection.

The guidelines said HCQ can be used for asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 and to asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases. The guidelines prescribe the asymptomatic workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 take 400 mg dose twice a day on day 1, followed by 400 mg once weekly for seven weeks to be taken with meals.

The use of HCQ in Kerala widely comes amid reports that the malaria drug showed no benefit in a relatively large trial of its use at veterans’ hospitals in the United States. According to research, about 28 per cent who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, as against the 11 per cent of those getting routine care alone on a sample of 368 patients.

“It’s voluntary and it is recommended for the doctors and other healthcare workers, who were in close contact with the high-risk Covid patients. As far as I know, at least 5,000 healthcare workers may have used the HCQ,” said Dr Praveen G S, epidemiologist, Government Medical College, Ernakulam.
“Hydroxychloroquine has been used for treating malaria for many years.

The decision rests on the individual whether to take the drug or not,” Dr Praveen said, and added that the fairly high numbers of cardiac-related side effects for those taking the HCQ may be due to the large number of persons taking the drug now. “When you administer the drug on 10 persons, it’s not visible. But when the drug is taken by over several thousands of people, the chances of such cardiac cases coming out is only natural,” he said.

The use of HCQ in Kerala widely comes amid reports that the malaria drug showed no benefit in a relatively large trial of its use at veterans’ hospitals in the United States. 

HCQ, an old anti-malarial drug, has been in limelight in recent weeks as a potential treatment for Covid-19. Doctors suggested it would be better to check the ECG of the three health workers before administering them HCQ as there could be cardiovascular issues due to hydroxychloroquine. 

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