COVID-19: Orders for over 10 crore anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine tablets placed by Centre

NEW DELHI: The Centre has placed orders with several pharmaceutical companies to procure over 10 crore hydroxychloroquine tablets, which the ICMR has recommended to be used as a preventive medication for COVID-19 healthcare workers, an official said on Friday.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended the anti-malarial drug for those involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus and also, for asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases.

“Order for 10.70 crore tablets of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine has been placed. Over 70 lakh tablets were purchased earlier,” the official said.

The Union health ministry also recently recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin on those severely suffering from the coronavirus infection and require intensive care unit (ICU) management.

In its revised guidelines on the ‘Clinical Management of COVID-19’ issued on Tuesday, the ministry said the drug is presently not recommended for children aged less than 12 years, and pregnant and lactating women.

“No specific antivirals have been proven to be effective as per the currently available data. However, based on the available information (uncontrolled clinical trials), the following drugs may be considered as an off-label indication in patients with severe disease and requiring ICU management,” the ministry had said while recommending the drug combination.

It has removed its earlier recommendation of the use of anti-HIV drug combinations Lopinavir and Ritonavir on a case-to-case basis depending upon the severity of the condition of a patient suffering from coronavirus infection.

“As per latest clinical data available from across the work, Lopinavir and Ritonavir drug combination was not found to have significant benefit for patients of COVID-19 so it has been discontinued,” a health ministry official said.

The ministry has already restricted the sale and distribution of hydroxychloroquine stating it as an essential drug to meet the requirements of any emergency arising due to COVID-19 pandemic.

“The central government is satisfied that the drug hydroxychloroquine is essential to meet the requirements of emergency arising due to pandemic COVID-19 and in the public interest, it is necessary and expedient to regulate and restrict the sale and distribution of the drug and preparation based thereon for preventing their misuse,” it had said in an order.

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