How effective is the Hydroxychloroquine drug against Coronavirus? How well India is prepared?
On 7th April 2020, US President Donald Trump said about possible ‘retaliation’ against India, if it did not respond to his request for the Hydroxychloroquine drug. Later, Indian officials responded that they have enough stock for domestic purpose & are even ready to supply the drug to the most needed countries, & to neighbours who are dependent on India’s capabilities. Earlier, on 4th April, India decided to ban exports of
What is hydroxychloroquine & what is its use?
It is an anti-malarial drug, but also useful for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus & porphyria cutanea tarda. It is also being studied as an experimental treatment for novel COVID-19.
Why India is in the spotlight ?
India manufactures 70% of the world’s supply of hydroxychloroquine, according to Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA). The country has a production capacity of 40 tonnes of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) every month, implying 20 crore tablets of 200 mg each. Ipca Laboratories, Zydus Cadila and Wallace Pharmaceuticals are top pharma companies manufacturing HCQ in India. According to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence, 47% of the US supply of the drug last year came from India makers.
Why the demand for Hydroxychloroquine rose?
Some small and very preliminary studies give conflicting results. One lab study suggested it curbed the virus’ ability to enter cells. Another report on 11 people found it did not improve how fast patients cleared the virus or their symptoms.
A report from China claimed the drug helped more than 100 patients at 10 hospitals, but they had various degrees of illness and were treated with various doses for different lengths of time, and might have recovered without the drug there was no group that didn’t get the drug for comparison.
In a study by the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (IJAA), French scientists reported that Hydroxychloroquine use showed a significant change in COVID-19 positive patients. However, later, the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, which owns the IJAA, flagged the study as too small & insufficient.
But, by March 21 2020, Trump had begun to call the drug a ‘game-changer’ & started pushing for it. This led not only to panic & stocking in the US, but in India also, following ICMR advisory, the drug has been moved to a Schedule H1 status, which means patients who need the drug would have to get a fresh prescription every time they needed to purchase it.
Is Hydroxychloroquine actually effective?
Trials are underway on the effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine, in COVID-19 treatment, one being done by WHO as solidarity trial & other being funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The results of both of these are not available yet.
Do you need to panic?
A spokesperson for Zydus Cadila, a drug-making company in India, said the company has ramped up production of Hydroxychloroquine to 20-30 tonnes per month from 3 tonnes previously. It will further scale it up further to about 40-50 tonnes per month in the coming months if needed. (https://bit.ly/2RptSHM)
“The whole situation (of hydroxychloroquine drug) is being monitored at the highest level; it is being ensured not just now, even in future there will be no shortage as and when needed,” health ministry Joint Secretary, Lav Agarwal said at the routine ministry press briefing on 8th April 2020. (https://bit.ly/2Vb0pSN)
Clearly, the world has entered into unchartered territory in the fight against the pandemic, but there is nothing to panic on your side, as long as you are washing hands & maintaining social distancing.