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Demand surge for HCQ in city, don’t self medicate, caution docs
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQs), an anti-malarial drug, has been recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as preventive medicine for individuals at high risk of contracting COVID-19
However, experts raise questions on the effectiveness of the medicine and highlight its side effects. Doctors on the other hand say that medicine is recommended only under doctor’s supervision.
Pharmacies across the city are seeing a huge demand of anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and HCQ as the panic on COVID-19 is increasing. “We are seeing a lot of customers who ask for HCQ even without a prescription. However, we insist on a prescription. There are about 20-30 customers who ask for Chloroquine/ HCQ on a daily basis,” said a staff at Apollo pharmacy in the city.
Various studies state that chloroquine/ HCQ have several side effects and can lead to heart attack, neuro disorders and others.
“Chloroquine can cause QT prolongation (which means the heart muscle takes longer than normal to recharge between beats) and affect the heart, which is fatal by itself if it is taken without precautions. The medicine, which is not recommended to everyone, is used for treating patients with a substantial viral load and health care workers who are exposed to positive patients,” said a doctor treating COVID-19 patient at a government hospital in the city.
Several other studies also state that chloroquine treatment for various virus infections can have slower viral load clearance and results in higher viremia, which means a higher viral load in the blood of a human. Medicos say that Chloroquine treatment and its effects vary from a country to another due to genetic differences. With wide usage of the anti-malarial drugs in several other countries, doctors state that HCQ is the only resort in the absence of any better alternative, provided that it is taken only under supervision of a medical practitioner.
“Coronavirus is a new virus and there is laboratory data to say that Chloroquine and HCQ can help to treat the patients with acute respiratory infections. It will take some months to research and formulate a drug exclusively for the treatment of COVID-19. As the drug has been used to treat patients in other countries, there is no harm in using it on patients in India. However, people with heart issues, renal disorders, liver disorders, elderly and other issues need continuous monitoring when they are given these drugs,” said Dr Senthiar Nambi, consultant, Infectious Diseases, Apollo Hospitals.