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There has been a continuous and rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 infected cases all over the world. The number of infected people has crossed over 7 lakh whereas the deaths due to this infectious disease have nearly reached 35,000. Amid all the research going on to find the cure for COVID-19, the national task force created by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) laid out a report saying that hydroxychloroquine can be used as a preventive medication for the people who are at a high risk of contracting the infection. 

Hydroxychloroquine was originally one of the first drugs used for the treatment and prevention of malaria. It is also a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) and is used to reduce swelling and pain present in the patients of arthritis. It is also used for various autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

After the outbreak of COVID-19, scientists examined hydroxychloroquine in laboratory studies and in-vivo studies for testing its treatment and preventive abilities. Pre-clinical data found out that hydroxychloroquine can be used as a prophylactic treatment against COVID-19 infection. 

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of India stated that hydroxychloroquine can only be given after medical advice written on a prescription letter. The medication should only be given to those who are in direct contact with a COVID-19 positive person. Since the medication also has side effects, medical shops are not allowed to sell hydroxychloroquine to anyone without an authentic prescription.

  1. Who can be given hydroxychloroquine?
  2. What is the contraindication for a preventive dose of hydroxychloroquine?
  3. Things to keep in mind while giving a preventive dose of Hydroxychloroquine
  4. What are the side effects of hydroxychloroquine?
  5. Other innovative treatments being tried by the doctors to treat COVID-19
Doctors for When is hydroxychloroquine used for COVID-19?

The National Taskforce for COVID-19 recommends the use of hydroxychloroquine for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection for select individuals, who are as follows:

  • Asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 
  • Asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases

Not everyone can take the preventive dose of hydroxychloroquine. The contraindications of this medication are:

  • Hydroxychloroquine should not be given to people below the age of 15 years.
  • The drug is highly contraindicated in people with a diagnosed case of retinopathy (damage to the retina of the eyes) or people who are sensitive to hydroxychloroquine or 4-aminoquinoline compounds.

Though the government has given permission to use hydroxychloroquine for the prevention of COVID-19, there are certain things you need to keep in mind:

  • Do not medicate yourself without any medical consultation. Hydroxychloroquine should only be given on the prescription of a medical practitioner.
  • The ones who are being given the hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic treatment need to self-report on the Pharmacovigilance Programme of India (PvPI) helpline or their mobile app. This is done to keep an eye on the effects and adverse drug reactions of the medication on the people. Findings from these people would guide any change in the recommendation of the dose or frequency of the drug.
  • If the person who has been given the dose of hydroxychloroquine gets symptomatic, then he/she should be taken to a medical facility as soon as possible.
  • People who are asymptomatic and are given a prophylactic dose of hydroxychloroquine but are in contact with laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 should remain in home quarantine as per the national guidelines until further notice.

The common side effects of hydroxychloroquine are:

Anaemia and loss of vision are the rare and severe symptoms of hydroxychloroquine. The severe side effects are mostly seen in elder people or in those who have any kidney disease.

Since there is no definite cure for COVID-19, but scientists and teams of doctors have been working day and night to find a cure for this infectious disease. Meanwhile, doctors have also been trying innovative treatments to cure the symptoms of COVID-19. Some of these treatments are:

1. Tocilizumab antibody treatment for COVID-19

Doctors are trying to use tocilizumab, a humanized IgG1 monoclonal antibody (laboratory-made antibody), which mimic the antibodies produced by the immune system of the body to fight against the foreign cells or the bad cells. This antibody was tested on 21 COVID-19 positive Chinese patients for the treatment of severe viral pneumonia.

2. Ebola drug for the treatment of COVID-19

Doctors have found in animal studies that Ebola drug Remdesivir has the ability to stop the multiplication of viruses found in Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Remdesivir blocks the enzyme RNA polymerase which is necessary for the virus replication.  

3. Passive antibody therapy for the treatment of COVID-19

In passive antibody treatment, blood is drawn from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 infection and is screened for virus-neutralizing antibodies. Once these virus-neutralizing antibodies are found in the blood, they are removed along with the serum. This serum is then injected in the body of people with underlying medical conditions, medical professionals and the confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection.

4. Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) for COVID-19

Doctors have also tried using tissue plasminogen activator for the prevention and treatment of clot formation in the patients of COVID-19. One of the main reasons for death in most of the patients of COVID-19 in China and Italy was clotting of blood in the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. tPA is otherwise used to resolve clots in the cases of heart attack or a stroke.

Dr. Arun R

Dr. Arun R

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Neha Gupta

Dr. Neha Gupta

Infectious Disease
16 Years of Experience

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Infectious Disease
8 Years of Experience

Dr. Alok Mishra

Dr. Alok Mishra

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience


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References

  1. Indian Council of Medical Research [Internet]. Department of Health Research. New Delhi. India.
  2. American College of Rheumatology. [Internet] Atlanta, Georgia, United States Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)