Health officials warn on irrational use of hydroxychloroquine in preventing covid-19

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on March 26, 2020

Scientific reports on the effect that antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine would have on the novel coronavirus, or not, are still coming in from different parts of the world. But the panic buying has begun, say healthcare workers, cautioning against its misuse and worrying about its supplies.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are antimalarials, but the latter is also used in treating rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. And though it’s early days on how the medicine would help in the treatment of patients with the Covid-19, public health experts caution that panic-buying would create a drug shortage for those who need it, besides having unfortunate consequences on those taking it without medical advice.

Though the medicine finds mentioning treatment guidelines in countries including India, it has to be prescribed by a doctor, said Anurag Bhargava, Professor of Medicine at Mangalore’s Yenepoya Medical College, referring to its cardiac profile. “The medicine affects the heart’s rhythm and a doctor prescribing it would be alert to this,” said Bhargava, who has over two decades of work on infectious diseases.

Supply concerns

About 20 Indian companies including Ipca, Cadila, Cipla, Sun Pharma etc make one or both drugs, an estimated 200-crore market, according to Aiocd-AWACS.

Except for companies like Ipca and Cadila, industry-watchers worry that the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) used in making the drug comes from China.

Internationally, Bayer was among the earliest to supply the medicine to the US for possible use against coronavirus. United States’ President Donald Trump had said the drug could be a “game changer” in treating the virus, though other officials tempered that optimism with caution. Novartis, Mylan and Teva are also in the fray. Bayer has a production facility in Pakistan that supplied China during the outbreak.

In India, a Bayer spokesperson told BusinessLine that Resochin (chloroquinephosphate) was available for treatments it was indicated and not SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus). “An effect of chloroquine in the control of SARS-CoV-2 has only been shown in an in vitro study in China, scientific publications of clinical study results are not yet available,” they said. Bayer gets its product made locally, an industry-hand said, as API sourcing becomes key if the requirement picks up.

Published on March 25, 2020

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