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Hydroxychloroquine and Coronavirus: All you need to know about drug that may be key in COVID-19 fight

hydroxychloroquine coronavirus

The drug hydroxychloroquine has been in the headlines for the past couple of weeks due to its potential use in curing coronavirus. While such world leaders as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro have been exploring Indian commodities of the drug to battle COVID-19, interests are being raised at home about the stock and how long stocks will last/can be restored.

US President Donald Trump has praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for lifting the ban on the trading of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which is being promoted as a game-changer in the world’s fight against the inevitable coronavirus.

On 7 April, Trump had warned, “US could counter if India does not release funds of hydroxychloroquine.” When the country declared that it was starting to export the drug, there was a change in the US president’s stance who tweeted: “Extraordinary times demand even closer cooperation between colleagues. 

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India, the biggest supplier of the drug, had halted its exports in early March. Although it, not 100 percent is shown that hydroxychloroquine could cure COVID-19, it has created huge interest after Trump endorsed the drug.

Here’s all you want to understand about the drug, which reportedly can hit coronavirus:

What is hydroxychloroquine used for?

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria drug, which is done to use the virus in areas is sensitive to chloroquine.

Is HCQ really a cure for COVID-19?

The answer to this problem is “no”. HCQ has not yet been shown to cure coronavirus.

Anecdotal studies have revealed that the drug can decrease viral loads in COVID-19 patients. Clinical trials are on in some countries like the US, UK, Spain and Australia, but specialists suggest that more extensive clinical trials are required on patients to test the effectiveness of the drug.

The USFDA has said that the drugs can be ordered: “as appropriate when a clinical trial is not possible or available”. The drug is being used on 1,100 coronavirus affected people in New York and the effects are being monitored.

Has India lifted the ban on export of HCQ?

After a 12-day ban, the Indian government lifted restraints on the drug to meet shipping commitments. The government has chosen to licence HCQ in proper quantities to neighboring countries and domains that have been badly hit by the pandemic.

Who are the producers of hydroxychloroquine in India?

India is the biggest supplier of HCQ in the world. Mumbai-based Ipca Laboratories is the biggest manufacturer in the country. Over 80 percent of the Indian national HCQ market is held by Ipca, followed by Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila. 

Do Indian companies have sufficient raw material to make HCQs?

Ipca Labs has said that it is vertically combined for HCQs, meaning they make raw material APIs, key origin material and the complete drug (formulations) at their offices in India. Even Zydus Cadila makes raw material in-house. Other businesses import certain parts and APIs from China. Industry authorities said that stocks from China have returned to near-normal levels, so a deficiency of raw material may not be a business going forward.

How much HCQ does India manufacture?

According to government data, India is able of producing 40 metric tonnes of HCQ every month, which is about 20 crore 200 mg tablets. The government has said that popular stocks are enough to service domestic demand and export responsibilities, but it is watching the sale of the drug.

The government has also set an original order of 10 crore tablets with Ipca Laboratories and Zydus Cadila. Drug Pricing Authority NPPA chairman has said that companies have started pushing government orders. If clinical tests of HCQ prove that it can handle patients successfully, the production of the drug can be sized up.

Can HCQ be purchased from a chemist without a prescription?

After the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advised the treatment of HCQ as a precautionary treatment for COVID-19 on March 24, patients, the global public and healthcare workers reportedly started stocking the drug, creating a partial shortage. The shortage hit those who were administered the medication for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Some chemists and stockists have still not got stocks.

General people stocking up HCQ also meant higher chances as people could be self-medicating on an “unproven” drug for COVID-19. Hence, the government on March 27 relocated it from the Schedule H1 status, which means it can no longer be sold without a current prescription from a equipped doctor.

Is hydroxycholoroquine safe?

There have been connected side-effects of HCQ on patients. The drug taken in combination with Azithromycin raises the risk of side effects like arrhythmia or irregular pulse and even toxicity if taken in a higher dosage. Medical specialists around the world have advised against any using HCQ as a method without proper clinical studies.