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Dr Guleria: HCQS, azithromycin still used to treat Covid-19 patients, but no evidence on their benefit

"Last year, HCQS was promoted in a big way but data did not support the use of these drugs and it is not there currently in most guidelines," Dr Guleria said.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: April 20, 2021 10:38:57 am
A bottle of hydroxychloroquine tablets. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria on Tuesday said drugs which were no longer in the national treatment guidelines continue to be administered to Covid-19 patients. Responding to a query from The Indian Express about the use of drugs like hydroxychloroquine (HCQS) and azithromycin, Dr Guleria admitted that in some areas these drugs were being used in addition to ivermectin.

“Data is not very strong and there is no conclusive evidence that these drugs are of any benefit. However, some people use HCQS as it may have some benefit and may not cause harm. The same goes for azithromycin, which is not used as an antibiotic but as an immunomodulator. Both these drugs are used in some areas,” he said.

Dr Guleria said in some places, physicians were recommending the use of these drugs to persons in home quarantine. “Last year, HCQS was promoted in a big way but data did not support the use of these drugs and it is not there currently in most guidelines,” Dr Guleria said.

The drugs have minimum side effects and are not so costly, which may be why they are still in use in some areas. However, data is not strong on the utility of these drugs to treat Covid-19. “There is no conclusive evidence that these drugs are of any benefit and treatment protocol laid down by experts should be followed. Supportive treatment for mild Covid-19 infection is paracetamol, hydration and regular care,” Dr Guleria said.

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Dr Guleria also reiterated that remdesivir should be given to patients who are hospitalised, have a fall in oxygen saturation and have infiltrates on the CT-scan. He also stressed that timing of administering the drug is important.

Meanwhile, Dr Subhash Salunkhe, advisor to Maharashtra on Covid-19, said HCQS and azithromycin were being recommended by some physicians based on their clinical judgement and success of the treatment.

Dr Parikshit Prayag, infectious diseases consultant at Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital, said these drugs were not useful. He reasoned that azithromycin was usually given to treat any cold or respiratory infection. However, there is lack of sufficient data and hence, for home quarantine, symptomatic therapy is given apart from blood thinners to prevent clots, he said.

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