The US is banking on India’s Hydroxychloroquine medicine — yet experts have their doubts

India has decided to partially lift the ban on the export of the ‘wonder drug’ Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that is used to treat Coronavirus. According to a report by ThePrint, both paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine will be supplied to ‘clear the existing orders’. While all other medicines under the ‘free’ category will also be shipped now.

The move comes after the US President Donald Trump appealed to the Indian government for an urgent supply of those two drugs and even warned of a retaliation.

India had banned the export of hydroxychloroquine recently after its own cases rose. However, Trump said that he was unaware of the development and didn’t “like that decision.” Trump believes that the combination of two drugs — antibiotic azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine — a ‘game changer’ for treating Coronavirus.

It works for virals but can it cure Covid-19?

Though Trump has called this drug ‘a gift from heaven’, most scientists and experts have their doubts of its impact in controlling Coronavirus in particular. It is however effective against viral infections in general.


India too seems to be banking on the drug. "Hydroxy-chloroquine is found to be effective against Coronavirus in laboratory studies and in-vivo studies. Its use in prophylaxis is derived from the available evidence of benefit as treatment and supported by preclinical data," IANS reported citing the advisory by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

International experts however are divided. David Sullivan, professor of microbiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an infectious disease physician believes that if the drug genuinely worked for Coronavirus infection, the healthcare professionals would know it by now.

“Right now we have no clinical evidence that it works,” he said. Yet, Covid-19 is a fairly new infection and there are few studies on its workings and hence the drugs that can contain it.


Clinical trials can help extract critical information on its use and dosage, said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

French and Chinese studies support US’ claims

Right now, the only evidence medical professionals around the world have are a few random studies. A French study which examined infected patients showed that the level of virus in blood dropped after medication.


Another Chinese study reiterated the same results. Approximately 100 patients were tested in China, where the disease first started, and the combination of the two drugs — antibiotic azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine — was found to reduce viral infection.

However, as far as the lab studies of Hydroxychloroquine are concerned, the researchers found that it could stop viruses like influenza and SARS-CoV-2 from infecting human cells. But, there is still a lag. “The problem is that what happens in the lab often doesn’t predict what happens in a patient,” Dr Otto Yang of the University of California, Los Angeles told the TIME.


Side effects of hydroxychloroquine

The drug however is strictly prohibited for those below 15 years and above 60 years due to possible side-effects on kidney and heart. In spite of stamping on the drug, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) scientist Raman Gangakhedkar warned against self-medication.

"Do not go for the COVID-19 test just on suspicion or consume hydroxychloroquine without a doctor's prescription because the medicine has its side effects,” he told IANS.


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