India, Nigeria back hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus prevention despite WHO warnings
London, May 27, 2020 (AltAfrica)-India’s top biomedical research body on Tuesday backed the use of the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine as a preventive against coronavirus, despite mounting concerns by WHO
The announcement from India came same day the Nigerian food and drugs agency, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) says it will continue hydroxychloroquine clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 despite the suspension of the same by the World Health Organisation.
Observational and case control studies in India showed there were “no major side effects” of taking the drug as a prophylactic, Cases of nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations were noted, ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said.
Similarly, NAFDAC Director-General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, said there are proven records that hydroxychloroquine had been effective in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially those at the “mild stage” of the virus. She made this known on Tuesday during a programme on Television Continental.
“There is data to prove that hydroxychloroquine worked for many COVID-19 patients. Therefore, we would continue our own clinical trials in Nigeria. Hydroxychloroquine has been proved to work at a mild stage. So the potency depends on the severity of the disease in the patient’s body,” she said.
Last week, the ICMR — which is leading the government’s response to the virus — expanded its advisory for the use of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure.
The body said all healthcare workers in hospitals and some frontline personnel could now take the drug for up to several weeks under strict medical supervision.
“We recommended that for prophylaxis, it should be continued, because there is no harm. Benefit may be there,” Bhargava told reporters.
Bhargava added that when the ICMR weighed the risks and benefits of the drug, it decided that “we should not deny it to our frontline workers and healthcare workers.”
But he stressed that personal protective gear should still be worn.
The previous ICMR guidelines for hydroxychloroquine stated that only asymptomatic healthcare workers caring for suspected or confirmed patients, or household contacts of confirmed patients, could be given the drug.
On Monday, the WHO said it was halting testing of the drug as a COVID-19 treatment after studies questioned its safety, including one that found it actually increased the risk of death.
Under India’s clinical guidelines for coronavirus treatment, hydroxychloroquine can be administered, but only to patients “with severe disease and requiring ICU management”.
India — which accounts for 70 percent of global production of hydroxychloroquine — on Tuesday reported 145,380 cases of the virus including 4,167 deaths.
The country ramped up output of the drug amid increased demand, after Trump pushed for hydroxychloroquine as a potential shield or treatment for the virus.
The NAFDAC DG, who said Lagos State had already begun hydroxychloroquine clinical trials, noted that depending on the speed of work, the clinical trials should conclude in three to four months.
“If medical doctors, research scientists, pharmacists, herbal experts work together, we should conclude the clinical trial in three to four months. The narrative might change afterwards but for now, we believe in hydroxychloroquine.