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First time in India, anti-HIV drugs used on Italian couple with coronavirus in Jaipur

Health officials said due procedure was followed, including obtaining the consent of patients, but it is too early to say if the drugs are working.

Written by Abantika Ghosh , Hamza Khan | New Delhi/jaipur |
Updated: March 10, 2020 7:03:07 am
coronavirus, coronavirus in India, coronavirus cases in India, coronavirus infection, coronavirus death toll, COVID-19, coronavirus treatment, coronavirus vaccine In Jaipur, health officials said a 69-year-old from Italy, who had tested positive for coronavirus, will be discharged in the coming days. (Express File Photo)

Battling the coronavirus threat, India has, for the first time, used the Lopinavir/ Ritonavir combination, usually a second line HIV medication, in the treatment of two Italian patients — a couple on a tour of India — who tested positive for COVID-19 in Jaipur. Due consent of the patients, officials said, was obtained before administration of the drug.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said: “Yes, ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) has taken approval for use of second line HIV drugs on COVID patients, but this Lopinavir/Ritonavir combination therapy has been approved for emergency use among COVID-19 patients with moderate degree of severity with laid down protocols. Till now, this combination therapy has been given to two Italian patients hospitalised in Jaipur.”

Health officials said due procedure was followed, including obtaining the consent of patients, but it is too early to say if the drugs are working. “The drug has been used in China, it is not exactly a new drug. Of course, it has some side-effects. We cannot say if it is working but since this is new use of an existing drug, we have to take consent of the patients before use,” a senior official said.

In Jaipur, health officials said a 69-year-old from Italy, who had tested positive for coronavirus, will be discharged in the coming days.

Rohit Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary, Medical and Health and Family Welfare, said the 69-year-old “who was presented with right lower lung lobe pneumonitis and was corona positive, now has no fever and is constantly improving”.

“His blood counts have become normal and pneumonia is decreasing, and is requiring much less oxygen. Looking at this, we expect to be able to discharge him, fully recovered, within the next ten days. His wife, who too was corona positive, is also much better,” Singh said.

The ICMR, the apex medical research body in the country, had obtained permission for “restricted use in public health emergency” of the two second line HIV medications for use against coronavirus. Seventy percent of HIV positive patients in India are on first line drugs. The medicines are manufactured in India mainly for export purposes, mostly to African countries. The combination of Lopinavir and Ritonavir has been approved for emergency medical use only if the COVID-19 situation in India turns into a public health emergency. Guidelines have been framed for their use.

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