India govt extends hydroxychloroquine cover to frontline workers

India govt extends hydroxychloroquine cover to frontline workers

New Delhi: Amid a raging debate over effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in prevention and treatment of novel coronavirus infection, the India government has included new categories to whom it recommended the use of the drug as a preventive medication.

The drug can be administered to all asymptomatic healthcare workers working in non-Covid-19 hospitals and also to asymptomatic frontline workers deployed in containment zones and paramilitary/ police personnel involved in Covid-19 related activities, a revised advisory issued by the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) said.

It had previously recommended the drug to asymptomatic Healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 case and to asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases.

The recommendation was made after the Joint Monitoring Group under the Chairmanship of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and including representatives from AIIMS, ICMR, National Centre for Disease Control, National Disaster Management Authority, WHO and experts drawn from central government hospitals reviewed the prophylactic use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ).

“At NIV, Pune, the report of the in-vitro testing of HCQ for antiviral efficacy showed reduction of infectivity and log reduction in viral RNA copy of SARs-CoV2,” the new advisory read. Rarely the drug causes cardiovascular side effects such as cardiomyopathy and rhythm (heart rate) disorders, it said.

However, the drug is contraindicated in persons with known case of retinopathy, hypersensitivity to HCQ and cardiac rhythm disorders. It is also not recommended for prophylaxis in children under 15 years of age and in pregnancy and lactation, the advisory said.

The guidelines cautioned the intake of the medicine should not instill a false security sense.

Hydroxychloroquine is originally used to prevent Malaria and treat other autoimmune conditions. A debate is still on over its effectiveness against Covid-19 and possible side-effects. The US government too has allowed its use against the novel coronavirus infection.

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