Five hospitals have enrolled so far for an observational study being conducted by ICMR to assess the efficacy of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medication against COVID-19 among healthcare personnel.
Five hospitals -- AIIMS Jodhpur, Maulana Azad Medical College and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi, Apollo Hospital in Chennai and AIIMS, Patna have been enrolled in the 12-week long study launched in the first week of May, Dr Rajnikant Srivastava, head of Department of Research Management, Policy Planning and Communication at the Indian Council of Medical Research in Delhi said.
Dr Suman Kanungo, Scientist at the ICMR who is coordinating the study, said healthcare workers including doctors, nurses, paramedics and sanitation workers who are taking care of COVID-19 patients and working in COVID areas in these five hospitals have been enrolled in this observational study.
"The aim is to evaluate the incidence of coronavirus infection among healthcare workers who are taking hydroxychloroquine as prophylaxis," Dr Kanungo said, adding that the side-effects will also be estimated.
"Any adverse event following intake of the drug will be noted and analysed in this structured study," the scientist said.
"There is a plan to enrol around 1,500 healthcare workers in the study. All those participating in the study would undergo COVID-19 test before they are being enrolled and every two weeks henceforth," Dr Kanungo said.
"There will be no intervention from our side. Healthcare workers who are taking hydroxychloroquine will be followed for twelve weeks," the scientist said.
According to an ICMR official, there is limited evidence on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine to deal with COVID-19 cases and therefore, there is not enough proof to advise it for general public use as of now.
The ICMR has recommended the use of the drug as a preventive medication to healthcare workers and household contacts looking after a positive case.
Besides, the Union Health Ministry has also recommended the use of Hydroxychloroquine in combination with Azithromycin on COVID-19 affected patients suffering with severe disease and requiring ICU management.
Hydroxychloroquine is one among the four treatment protocols that is being evaluated during the randomised controlled clinical trials under the WHO's Solidarity trial to find an effective treatment for COVID-19 across selected hospitals.
The other three treatment protocols are Remdesivir, combination of Lopinavir and Ritonavir and Lopinavir and Ritonavir with Interferon beta-1a.
Hydroxychloroquine is an old and inexpensive drug used to treat malaria. India is the largest producer of the drug globally.
Hydorxychloroquine recently failed in two separate randomised controlled trials conducted in China and France, the findings of which were published in the BMJ journal on May 15.
The number of coronavirus cases crossed the one lakh mark in the country on Tuesday, while the death toll due to the infection touched 3,163, according to the Union Health Ministry.
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