A MONTH after ICMR recommended use of hydroxychloroquine as prophylaxis (preventive treatment) for frontline healthcare workers and high risk population amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Punjab has directed all frontline healthcare workers across the state to take the recommended weekly dose of HCQ.
After the deaths of an assistant commissioner of police and a revenue official from Ludhiana in the last two days, and a district mandi officer and two other police personnel testing positive for the virus, the government is considering giving the medicine to other frontline workers as well, including police and government officials etc.
“We have purchased 10 lakh tablets of HCQ-400 each. All healthcare workers have been advised to take a tablet each every week. The ICMR has also sent us four lakh tablets. We have enough supply. We will order more to keep a buffer,” said a government official.
The official added, “We have so much supply that we have asked the doctors to use it as much as needed on patients. There is no shortage even after the Government of India had exported the medicine to the US. We are not depending on the central government alone. We are purchasing our own supplies from the open market.”
Punjab had recorded 244 COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths as of Sunday evening.
HCQ shortage at chemist stores
While the government has enough supply of HCQ, the medicine, which is used for treatment of malaria and certain auto-immune diseases, has vanished from chemist stores. “As soon as there were reports that the US was using the medicine on COVID-19 patients, people started hoarding these. We are in short supply of the medicine for the past one month,” said Aman Ahuja, spokesperson of the Punjab Chemists Association.
“People in Punjab had resorted to panic buying last month after US President Donald Trump’s tweet about the drug. Within a week of his tweet, most of the chemists in Ounjab said the drug was out of stock,” he said, adding that it was similar to the hoarding of Tamiflu during the swine flu breakout.
Mohit Kumar of Mohit Medicos in Sector 46, Chandigarh, also said that the medicine was out of stock. Ahuja said the medicine was supplied by four pharmaceutical companies and a strip was priced between Rs 120 to Rs 130. “I have now placed an order online. But it is not available. But we have been advising patients that it is not an over-the-counter medicine. They should be careful with this. The manufacturing companies have now launched helplines and we are depending on them,” he said.
Ahuja said his association had appealed to the people not to panic-buy medicines. “We have enough stock of medicines with supply line being restored. But people are coming to us to buy medicine for 3-6 months. We want to assure them that we do not have any shortage. They can ring us up for home delivery.”
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