Evidence not enough to recommend HCQ for use of general public: ICMR

In the absence of any specific treatment for COVID-19, several hospitals in affected countries are currently using the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a first-line therapy for COVID-19 patients. Several clinical trials are also underway to test the efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine on frontline health workers and caregivers working with COVID-19 patients. However, to support its use against COVID-19, there is mixed evidence.

On Saturday, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said that there is a lot of evidence to recommend this drug for use by the general public. Raman R. Gangakhedkar, head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the ICMR, said that its study has not reached a stage where conclusions can be drawn from the results. He stressed that the risk period should be long otherwise it is difficult to reach a conclusion.

According to a statement released by ICMR, a total of 1,79,374 samples out of 1,64,773 individuals have been tested in India as of 9 am on April 11, and 7,703 of them have tested positive.

On Saturday itself, 17,143 samples were tested, out of these 600 were found positive for SARS-CoV-2. These samples have been tested in 146 government laboratories and the remaining 67 private laboratories under the ICMR network.

HCQ test for COVID-19 begins in the US

Amid the political debate, the US National Institutes of Health on Thursday began a clinical trial to treat adult COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine.

The NIH trial aims to recruit 500 adult patients with COVID-19 who have been hospitalized or are receiving emergency care and are expected to be hospitalized. The researchers will give patients two doses of hydroxychloroquine per day for five days. The first patients were admitted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Despite the lack of evidence for its effectiveness against the new coronavirus, US President Donald Trump has repeatedly been promoting this drug as a promising treatment against COVID-19. Last month, Trump tweeted that a combination treatment of hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin “has a real chance of being one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” In another tweet, he said he was hoping he would be “used to IMMEDIATELY.”

Risks of using anti-malarial drugs

Although there is no clear evidence that the malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine help fight COVID-19 infection, the risks associated with the drugs are clear. These medications can cause side effects such as headaches, vomiting, rashes, loss of vision (retinopathy), seizures, hypoglycemia, arrhythmias of the heart and fatal heart damage. They may carry a greater risk in patients with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and liver disease.

The NIH trial is one of dozens of studies trying to obtain solid data on the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19. The World Health Organization has also conducted an international test to test the drugs, called the Solidarity Trial, along with three other treatments.

Hydroxychloroquine is currently used to treat autoimmune disorders such as rheumatism and lupus.

In previous studies, the drug has demonstrated antiviral activity, the ability to modulate the activity of the immune system. Researchers have high hopes that it may also be useful in the treatment of COVID-19.

(With inputs from ANI)

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Published: April 12, 2020 10:19 pm

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