No major side-effects of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) have been found in studies in India and its use should be continued in preventive treatment for COVID-19, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Tuesday.
The ICMR's statement came against the backdrop of the World Health Organization (WHO) suspending the testing of the drug in COVID-19 patients temporarily in its global study following safety concerns.
"The COVID-19 is an evolving field and we do not know which drug is working and which is not working. Lot of drugs are being repurposed for COVID-19, whether for prophylaxis or for treatment of COVID-19.
"We found there were no major side affects except for nausea, vomiting, palpitation occasionally. Hence in our advisory we have recommended that it should be continued for prophylaxis as there is no harm. Benefit may be there," ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said.
He said it has been "clearly advised that HCQ should be taken with food, not on empty stomach".
"We also emphasized that one ECG should be done during the treatment. We expanded use of HCQ from healthcare workers to front-line workers also, considering the potential benefits," he added.
Bhargava was addressing a press conference on the COVID-19 situation in the country where he mentioned that the ICMR has upscaled the testing facilities and over one lakh persons are being tested every day.
Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health, said the recovery rate for COVID-19 cases in the country has seen an upwards trend.
“The recovery rate in the country continues to improve and is presently 41.61 per cent. The COVID-19 fatality rate has reduced from 3.3 per cent on April 15 to 2.87 per cent which is among the lowest in the world," he said.