High-risk COVID-19: ICMR nod for anti-malarial drug

ICMR nod for anti-malarial drug for high-risk coronavirus patients

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As COVID-19 spreads far and wide, a team of experts set up by the Indian Council of Medical Research on Monday recommended the use of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine for treatment of healthcare workers and household contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients.

The procedure has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for “restricted use in emergency situations”, the Indian Council for Medical Research said in an advisory.

The drug is a preventive measure for healthcare workers involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients and not for general use, the ICMR appointed national taskforce on Covid-19 clarified.

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“The placing of healthcare workers under chemoprophylaxis should not instil a sense of false security,” the advisory said and asked healthcare workers to follow prescribed public health measures such as frequent washing of hands, respiratory etiquettes, keeping a distance of one meter and use of personal protective equipment wherever applicable.

“They should self-monitor their health and report to health authorities immediately in the event of them becoming symptomatic,” it added.

The ICMR asked contacts of positive cases under chemoprophylaxis to strictly remain under home quarantine while on therapy.

The anti-malaria drug came into sharp focus after US President Donald Trump advocated its use along with azithromycin as a “game-changer” in the fight against Covid-19.

In a research paper, published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, scientists have claimed promising results for the drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus infection. Administered with azithromycin (an antibacterial drug) the drug significantly reduced the viral load in COVID-19 patients, the research paper said.

However, scientists have also sounded caution saying the findings were based on limited clinical trials and much larger sample size was required to conclusively establish the efficacy of the drug.

Scientists have also warned that overdose of the drug could lead to poisoning and even death.

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