Hydroxychloroquine given under supervision, side effects can be addressed: Indian-American doctor

Hydroxychloroquine given under supervision, side effects can be addressed: Indian-American doctor
Hydroxychloroquine (Photo | AP)

Dr Bharat Barai said that he has seen some media reports and doctors criticising the President and severely amplifying the side-effects of hydroxychloroquine.

New York: An eminent Indian-American doctor has said that hydroxychloroquine, which President Donald Trump took to ward off the COVID-19, is given under medical supervision and any side-effect can be addressed, acknowledging that the drug has become a victim of politics in the US.

Last week, President Trump disclosed that he was taking the antimalarial drug despite medical warnings about the potential serious side effects. The drug was taken by him to ward off the coronavirus and was taken after consulting the White House doctor.

Dr Bharat Barai said that he has seen some media reports and doctors criticising the President and severely amplifying the side-effects of hydroxychloroquine.

However, the use of hydroxychloroquine by President Trump is one of the best uses of this medicine as a preventive mechanism against the coronavirus.

"All medications have side effects. It is always the benefits versus risks analysis. Hydroxychloroquine is FDA approved and has been used for years by patients with Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders," Barai, an oncologist affiliated with the Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, said.

He said most of these patients had safely taken one to two tablets daily of hydroxychloroquine for years.

"If it is safe for them to take daily for years; for coronavirus, we are talking about once week prophylaxis or 14 days treatment for those with significant exposure or positive COVID testing. Since this will be done under medical supervision, if side effects were to occur, it can be addressed by the supervising physician," Barai said.

The World Health Organisation on Monday said it will temporarily remove hydroxychloroquine from a global drug trial underway to find possible treatments for the COVID-19. The UN's health body said experts will analyse data to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.

In Geneva, World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they will temporarily remove hydroxychloroquine from a global drug trial.

Ghebreyesus referred to an observational study published in The Lancet last week on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and its effects on the COVID-19 patients who have been hospitalised. The authors of the study reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.

"The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board...," Ghebreyesus said reiterating that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.

But Barai said that politics is being played around the life-saver hydroxychloroquine.

"This politics (over hydroxychloroquine) is playing with people's lives," Barai told PTI in an interview on Monday.

Instead of giving a true scientific picture, vested interests in the US, including a section of the media, are presenting a distorted picture hydroxychloroquine to suit their political agenda, he alleged.

Barai added that chloroquine's antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties have been described for decades and chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine has a very long terminal half-life of 45-55 days.

Considered one of the most influential Indian-American community leaders in the US, Barai alleged that certain people and media are playing with the lives of the people by not presenting the scientific facts about hydroxychloroquine.

"This is getting politicised. They should really stick to science rather than politics," he said.

It is important that people of the US and the world are given true fact and not distorted facts, he said and explained that hydroxychloroquine is a very effective medicine in the treatment of coronavirus except in cases where an individual is in the advanced stage of the COVID 19 infection and have heart ailments.

Barai said that a large number of doctors in New York and across the US are using the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for the treatment for seriously ill patients with coronavirus since there is no other known effective treatment.

In addition to its most effective use as prophylaxis, the second appropriate use of hydroxychloroquine will be to administer it daily for 7-14 days as soon as a person tests positive.

The French experience using hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, in a small study, showed almost all patients converted to negative in less than one week, avoiding SARS or the ventilators.

Meanwhile, an Indian-American advisor to Global Real Estate Investments Educational Hospitals and co-chair of Trump Victory Indian American Finance Committee, told PTI that Trump is convinced that in his war against the COVID19 pandemic, Hydroxychloroquine "too could be one of the saviours. Hydroxychloroquine could save the lives of his fellow Americans suffering from deadly Coronavirus."

Al Mason added that Trump's critics and his political opponents opposed him for using Hydroxychloroquine and "tried to sabotage the drug's clinical trial."

At Trump's request, India last month exported 50 million HCQ tablets to treat the COVID-19 patients in America, the worst-hit country by the pandemic.

The US has over 98,000 deaths and over 1.6 million confirmed cases of the COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University tracker.

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