AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria on Sunday warned the general public against the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug deemed to be useful in dealing with COVID-19, without proper approval from doctors, stating that it can be harmful leading to an irregular heartbeat.
"Some lab data show that hydroxychloroquine may have some effects on COVID-19 patients. But the data are not that strong. Experts at ICMR felt that it may be helpful in close contacts of COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers taking care of the patients," Dr Guleria told ANI.
He stressed that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is not a treatment for everyone, stating that the expert group in India and ICMR looked in this data and thought this may be useful in people who are healthcare workers managing COVID-19 patients or those who are in close contact with everyone.
"This drug also has side-effects. HCQ can have cardiac toxicity leading to an irregular heartbeat. Like any other drug, this also has side effects. It can do more harm than good for the general public. So, taking it without any indication can lead to problem also," he said.
Speaking about the use of a combination of HCQ and Azithromycin by doctors to treat COVID-19 patients, he said: "Studies in China and France say that combination of HCQ and Azithromycin may be helpful if given to COVID-19 patients with moderate to severe illness. The data from the studies are not strong. Since no other treatment is available, it was felt that it should be used."
With the surge in demand for hydroxychloroquine, the pharmaceutical industry has produced 20 crore HCQ tablets this month, said Pankaj Patel, CEO of Zydus Cadila in Ahmedabad, on Saturday.
Several countries have requested India for the supply of the said drug even as the globally confirmed cases of the virus, which originated in China's Wuhan last year, has surpassed 1.5 million.
India has cleared the first list of 13 countries for hydroxychloroquine which includes the USA, Spain, Germany, Bahrain, Brazil, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, and Bangladesh.The US had asked for 48 lakh tablets of HCQ and India has sanctioned 35.82 lakh tablets, sources said.