The National Task Force for COVID-19, which was constituted by individuals from the Indian Medical Council of Research (ICMR), has issued a set of guidelines for the use of a drug to protect high-risk individuals against coronavirus disease.
As per the advisory, two sets of individuals can be started on the preventive medication hydroxychloroquine.
‚ÄúThe advisory provides for placing the following high-risk population under chemoprophylaxis with hydroxychloroquine: Asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, Asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases,‚ÄĚ according to the statement issued by the task force.
This means that healthcare workers who are exposed to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and those in the same household as a confirmed patient, are eligible to start on the medication as a preventive measure.
"Hydroxychloroquine is recommended only and only for a healthcare workers who are treating a COVID-19 patient. It is recommended only for persons in staying and caring for a positive patient in households, only for prevention. For this, there is enough stocks in the country," ICMR Director Balram Bhargav said in a press conference.
The Drug Controller General of India has approved the protocol for the use of these drugs as a preventive measure to high-risk individuals, and can be given in emergency situations.
The advisory also cautions that people are not to be lulled into a ‚Äėfalse sense of security‚Äô after being given these medications. They still must follow all advised precautions, such as hand washing and maintaining respiratory protection and etiquette.
High-risk individuals who have made contact with a positive case must remain under home isolation for the duration of the treatment with the drug. If an asymptomatic individual develops symptoms while on this drug, they must report to a hospital and alert officials.
What is hydroxychloroquine and does it really prevent COVID-19?
This drug was originally used as an antimalarial, but has been found to be effective against the coronavirus, some studies have shown. It is no longer the preferred medication for malaria due to drug resistance which has developed against it.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), small studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine has antiviral properties, but they have yet to be ascertained on a large scale.
The COVID-19 National Task Force has stated that people should only begin this medication if it has been prescribed by a doctor. It is not to be given to children under the age of 15, those with retinopathy, those with known allergies to hydroxychloroquine or similar drugs.
In addition to this drug, other drugs such as antiretrovirals which are largely given to individuals with HIV, are also being tried in parts of the world to treat those with COVID-19.