Coronavirus: ICMR doubles down on HCQ as preventive medicine though studies show it offers no benefit
Days after publication of fresh scientific evidence on the futility of using hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19 patients, the Indian Council of Medical Research has decided to double down on the anti-malarial drug as it expanded its use as a preventive medicine against the novel coronavirus not only for high risk individuals but also for the contacts of asymptomatic COVID-19 positive patients.
The ICMR advisory comes close on the heels of two studies in the Lancet and British Medical Journal showing that the medicine does not offer any additional benefit for COVID-19 patients, rather it increases the death rate in such patients.
In the new advisory, the ICMR has recommended use of HCQ as a preventive medicine among all asymptomatic healthcare workers working in Covid and non-Covid hospitals.
In addition, the medicine has been recommended for use in surveillance workers deployed in containment zones, police and paramilitary personnel involved in COVID-19 related activities and asymptomatic household contacts of confirmed cases.
The guidance from the ICMR national task force on COVID-19 is on the basis of three small scale trials, none of which are peer reviewed, and an in-vitro study at the National Institute of Virology, Pune.
ICMR's own safety profile shows that out of 1,323 healthcare workers examined to check the safety of the drug, 214 persons exhibit some form of adverse effects, described by the council as mild.
The council acknowledges that the drug do pose some risks to the heart and eye, and should be taken under medical supervision for such cases.
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