In Maharashtra, hydroxychloroquine remains the preventive of choice for healthcare workers exposed to the novel coronavirus. At least 80-90% of health workers involved in the treatment of Covid-19 patients have been given HCQ tablets as a preventive, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope told The Indian Express.
“These are dynamic numbers, but definitely HCQ has been taken by thousands of our frontline staff. We do not deviate from the ICMR protocol. Not just our frontline staff but police officers, doctors and even those who are exposed while conducting surveillance duties at the containment zone have taken the HCQ drug,” Tope said.
On Friday, a revised central advisory recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medication for a wider range of persons in high-risk zones.
In Maharashtra, only in cases of contraindications — that is if the person has a heart ailment or even high blood pressure — does the doctor provide his/her recommendation. An ECG is also done on healthcare workers before administering the drug, Tope said.
HCQ is primarily prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus patients. Common side effects are usually mild to moderate and related to the stomach. “Patients of arthritis who are being effectively managed with HCQ need not be alarmed by what is being reported from HCQ experience with Covid-19,” rheumatologist Dr Arvind Chopra said.
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The latest ICMR advisory, while favouring the use of HCQ as a preventive in high-risk populations, has “noted the occurrence of side effects and since this has important implications in clinical practice they should publish the data in sufficient detail in a peer-reviewed medical journal on priority,” Dr Chopra said.
Private hospitals have devised their internal protocol and identified those who are vulnerable. Dr Sunil Rao, Group Director of Sahyadri Hospital, said more than 2,000 of their frontline workers have taken HCQ. “If they have side effects like tingling sensation in the ear or any other symptom it is immediately stopped,” he said. Employees at pharmacies and billing counters too are taking the drug.
Dr Zarir Udwadia, Mumbai-based pulmonologist, said in a review in Association of Physicians of India journal that caution must be exercised when using it, with monitoring for potential cardiac toxicity. The review said current data does not allow them to recommend for or against the use of these drug.
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