Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug that has shown to be effective in protecting against the coronavirus, but use of the drug has been debated.

Ktaka healthcare workers to be given antimalarial drug to prevent COVID-19 infectionRepresentative Image
Health Coronavirus Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 22:23

Healthcare workers in Karnataka will now be given an antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), as a preventive measure against coronavirus disease, state health department officials said.

“As per state guidelines, all health workers and contacts will be given this in the entire state. It has to be given weekly, for three weeks for family members and seven weeks for healthcare workers. We have stock for the first dose and we have put in order for large stock beyond our requirement. It will reach in a couple of days,” stated Karnataka Minister for Medical Education Dr Sudhakar during a press briefing on Tuesday evening.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved the use of the antimalarial drug for individuals identified to be at a ‘high risk’ of possibly contracting coronavirus disease. This includes healthcare professionals and (currently) asymptomatic family members of those who have tested positive for COVID-19. As per the advisory issued by the ICMR, these two groups have been identified as ‘high risk’ groups.

However, several concerns have also been raised about the use of the drug as a preventive measure, due to some of its more severe side effects. These include hypersensitivity, irregular heart rate and even retinal damage. Medical professionals have urged that the drug not be readily available over the counter, and have asked for the drug only to be sold with a prescription over fears that individuals may self-medicate.

The death of an Assamese doctor who had started taking the drug in view of the novel coronavirus pandemic raised several concerns. Several medical professionals have also expressed their staunch disapproval of using HCQ to prevent COVID-19, stating that it could do ‘more damage than good.’ However, officials from the ICMR have stated that the drug is largely considered to be safe and that only those with certain heart conditions would develop such a severe reaction to the drug.

Also read: Self-medicating with HCQ for COVID-19 dangerous, warn experts

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