Remember Donald Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine? Study in India backs it as Covid-19 cure

Remember Donald Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug touted as a magical Covid-19 cure by former US President Donald Trump last year, has been found effective in a prophylactic study published in the Journal of The Association of Physicians of India (JAPI) last week.

The study showed that hydroxychloroquine, popularly known as HCQ, could prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in varying degrees depending on its dosing regimen. The highest prevention rate of 72 per cent was found among those given hydroxychloroquine over six weeks or a longer duration.

The study said, “[W]hen adjusted for other risk factors, HCQ dose as per government recommendations, 2-3, 4-5, 6 or more weeks reduced the probability of Covid positivity by 34 per cent, 48 per cent and 72 per cent.”

The study was conducted May-September last year when HCQ was still part of the Union health ministry’s recommendation in treatment protocol for Covid-19.

BACK AND FORTH ON HCQ

The study began against the backdrop of contesting claims made by authorities and experts including Donald Trump and his advisor Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious disease expert.

In March 2020, Donald Trump declared that hydroxichloroquine was a “game changer” drug in the fight against Covid-19. Dr Fauci dismissed the claim citing lack of study and evidence. Despite Fauci’s counter-positioning, Trump continued to be vocal about taking HCQ as prophylactic drug.

Incidentally, the Union health ministry on June 6 dropped hydroxychloroquine from Covid-19 treatment protocol. In its nine-page guidelines released on Sunday (June 6) by the directorate of health services, hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin and favipiravir find no mention.

The government’s decision came on the back of criticism by experts who pointed out a lack of study-based evidence to recommend hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 cases. The government’s revised guidelines, however, contradicts the recommendations made by the Indian Council of Medical Research as released on May 17.

The ICMR guidelines prescribed the use of hydroxychloroquine in mild cases of Covid-19.

WHY THIS STUDY MATTERS

The authors of this prophylactic (relating to prevention of a disease) study said that this “is the largest multicenter study on HCQ prophylaxis on HCWs (healthcare workers), covering over 12,000 HCWs at the risk of Covid-19”.

The study was conducted in May-September last year across 44 hospitals in 17 states involving hundreds of doctors, who received doses of hydroxychloroquine.

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