The demand of drug chloroquine and hydroxy-chloroquine have come in big news. In the last one month, the US president declared that these drugs make big game changers against COVID-19. This coupled with his recent threat that if India does not send it to USA, there could be a retaliation. India finally relented and agreed to send it.
This is a drug where malaria is susceptible to chloroquine, to prevent and treat malaria. Moreover, certain applications include rheumatoid arthritis treatment, lupus, and porphyry treatment. It is oral medicine. Prior to all this, in United States in 1955 hydroxy-chloroquine was available for medical use. It is on the list of essential medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system, by the World Health Organization.
The initial results from a placebo-controlled COVID-19 hydroxy-chloroquine trial indicate that patients hospitalized with a mild disease recovered faster with the addition of the drug than with placebo at the beginning of standard treatment. The findings also indicate that hydroxy-chloroquine may convey some protection against worsening the disease.
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Side Effects of Hydroxy Chloroquine
Chloroquine is not without side effects that include diarrhea, headache, vision changes and muscle fatigue. Significant side effects may involve allergic reactions. The drug can also cause ECG changes such as QTc prolongation that can lead to fatal heart rhythm abnormalities particularly in patients with underlying heart disease. This can have adverse effects in patients taking Digoxin which may increase the effects that cause heart rhythm disorders. It can interfere with insulin or anti-diabetic drugs where it can improve the effects and produce very low sugar levels. It is also important to alert patients with anti-epileptic drugs that chloroquine will increase the risk of seizures.
Its indiscriminate use nowadays should be firmly dissuaded. It seems that there are many people taking it or selling it excessively. The latest recommendation for its use for prevention as outlined in the Indian Council of Medical Research Guidelines is: Asymptomatic healthcare staff engaged in the treatment of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases and asymptomatic household contacts with confirmed laboratory cases. With respect to its position in COVID 19 successful cases with or without symptoms, care should only be provided by medical staff as per the institution’s SOPs.
We must not forget that avoidance is the answer in the COVID-19 era:
social / physical distancing, no handshakes, regular hand-washing with soap and water, remaining as long as possible indoors, using masks and coughing and sneezing over with a handkerchief.