By Sfoorti Mishra
New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) As the World Health Organisation announced the resumption of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine in the solidarity trail for the treatment of COVID 19 disease, experts across the country hailed the decision by the world health body in one voice.
Speaking to IANS, Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Dr Shekhar C. Mande said the decision is welcome. “I am pleased to note that the WHO has resumed the trial of hydroxychloroquine again. The Lancet paper based on which the trial was temporarily suspended, was not on sound ground. Therefore WHO’s decision is welcome. I firmly believe that the WHO’s decision was taken in haste. It was a kind of kneejerk reaction. They should have analysed the data on their own before temporarily suspending trials.”
Similarly Dr Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of the Lung Care Foundation told IANS that it was shocking to learn about the suspension of the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) drug from the solidarity trial of WHO for the COVID 19 disease.
“The study published in Lancet has a lot of flaws and that study cannot be the basis of changing the approach of the WHO as was done. I would not accept the finding of a study where even the source of the hospitals is not known. When they were asked about the source of data they had said everything was anonymous. How can you believe a data where even the source of the hospitals or the background of the data cannot be verified? Therefore in summary the study on the basis of which this action was taken by WHO is a flawed study. I would not accept it and I would continue with the trial that WHO was doing,” said Kumar.
Dr Kumar also said that the study published in a journal like Lancet was almost a shock for him. “I am actually shocked that a journal like Lancet published the study at the level of editor. Generally there is a three month review period. But this whole thing was published in a fast track way. I am shocked at the authors and journal’s approach. Also WHO accepted it without having it verified by their experts. It is only when 100 scientists across the country raised their voice and objections and wrote to the editor, only then this entire episode came out in the open.”
However the General Secretary of the Indian Medical Association Dr R.V. Asokan said that the WHO is an advisory body and solidarity trials are dynamic. “We in India never stopped using hydroxychloroquine. In fact we had recommended HCQ to all the healthcare workers. The ICMR had recommended it to only limited people and the healthcare workers who are exposed to COVID. There was a strong recommendation from us along with 19 other organisations.”
Dr Asokan also said that because there are many papers on medical science from all over the world therefore the WHO keeps evaluating and modifying its guidelines. “In medical science papers come from all over the world. The WHO is a technical body, advisory in nature to the governments of the world. WHO is saying something today, but in a year or so it will review its decision as some more evidence comes. Therefore it should be taken in this spirit only. HCQ is a drug that is used in India for a very long time under the supervision of professional medical practitioners. Every drug has side effects. It is for the medical practitioner to monitor that specially, if it is given as prophylaxis. ICMR has cleared it for prevention while the WHO trial is for therapeutic,” he added.
The World Health Organisation on Wednesday had said that hydroxychloroquine will return to the solidarity trial for the potential treatment of coronavirus disease. At a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “On the basis of the available mortality data, the members of the committee recommended that there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol. The Executive Group received this recommendation and endorsed continuation of all arms of the solidarity trial, including hydroxychloroquine.”
The world health body had temporarily suspended the usage of HCQ from the solidarity trial for coronavirus treatment on May 25 soon after a study published in one of the most prominent medical journals – Lancet – which had suggested that the drug could cause more fatalities among Covid-19 patients.
However, the WHO chief had said that the decision was taken as a precaution while the safety data was reviewed. Soon after HCQ was suspended from the trial, the Indian government had said that the antimalarial drug has been known for its benefits for a very long time and its usage will be continued for the frontline workers including police and healthcare professionals as prophylaxis.
The government had also said that studies were being conducted and the drug would be included in the clinical trial also for the treatment of coronavirus disease.
US President Donald Trump had also strongly advocated the use of HCQ and called it a “gamechanger”. He went to the extent of saying that he had himself taken the medicine. According to the WHO, so far, more than 3,500 patients have been recruited in 35 countries for the trial.
(Sfoorti Mishra can be contacted on [email protected])