The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against the use of hydroxychloroquine(anti-malarial drug), saying it found no evidence, in randomized clinical trials, of drug’s effectiveness for coronavirus treatment.
on Friday, the WHO Executive Director Michael J Ryan said, “At present, there is no evidence from a randomized control trial of the effectiveness of HCQ in the treatment of prophylaxis against Covid-19”.
Michael Ryan pointed out that the drug has been used under randomized trials to study its effectiveness but should only be given in clinical settings under clinical supervision considering its side effects.
The apex health research body ICMR is also mulling a revision of its recommendation to use hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for the treatment of COVID-19 patients after doubts were raised over the effectiveness of the drug. Asked if the government is planning to drop HCQ from the COVID-19 treatment plan and also as preventive medication, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at ICMR, Dr. Raman R Gangakhedkar on Wednesday said, “A decision in this regard will be taken following a review of all the evidence we are collecting.”
Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is conducting an observational study in which five hospitals have been enrolled to assess the efficacy of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medication against COVID-19 among healthcare personnel.
According to an ICMR official, there is limited evidence on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine to deal with COVID-19 cases and therefore, there is not enough proof to recommend it for use by the general public as of now. The ICMR has recommended the use of the drug as a preventive medication to healthcare workers and household contacts looking after a positive case.
Meanwhile, The Lancet, a premier medical journal, published a large observational study on 14,888 coronavirus patients. It found that those being treated with HCQ and chloroquine are at a higher risk of death and irregular heart rhythms.
The researchers from Harvard Medical school, University Hospital Zurich and the University of Utah said, “We were unable to confirm a benefit of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine when used alone or with a macrolide [azithromycin or clarithromycin], on in-hospital outcomes for Covid-19.”
The researchers further claim that their “large-scale, international, real-world analysis supports the absence of a clinical benefit of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and points to potential harm in hospitalized patients with Covid-19.”
Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said, “A definitive answer still awaits the results of the randomized trials, but it is clear that the drugs should not be given for the treatment of Covid-19 other than in the context of a randomized trial”.
Some experts also pointed out the limitations of the Lancet study. Prof Babak Javid, Principal Investigator, Tsinghua University School of Medicine, Beijing, and Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Cambridge University Hospitals, said, “This was a retrospective analysis, not a prospective randomized controlled trial. Therefore, one cannot formally state that HCQ or CQ is not associated with benefit, but it certainly casts a great deal of doubt”.