People in Gujarat have been consuming and stocking up on hydroxychloroquine, a drug touted as a ‘game changer’ in the fight against coronavirus, prompting the state government to issue a warning against its health hazards and a directive to chemists not to sell it over the counter.
India is the world’s largest manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine, which is used in the treatment of malaria.
But, its demand has now increased after US President Donald Trump requested the Indian government to allow its export to America to treat COVID-19 patients.
“We have come to know that people were rushing to medical stores to buy hydroxychloroquine after it came in news and was also mentioned as an effective medicine by US President Trump for those infected by COVID-19,” Gujarat Food and Drug Control Authority Commissioner H.G. Koshia told sources.
This type of self-medication can cause harm and side effects if not taken under proper care of doctors, he warned.
Chemists have been asked to maintain a register of purchase and sale of the drug, which they have to do for all the scheduled H drugs, he said.
A chemist in Bopal area of Ahmedabad said many people come to his store asking for hydroxychloroquine in a day, but he sells it only to those who have proper prescription.
Koshia said the Gujarat government has enough stock of the medicine, but an advisory has been issued, so that there is no shortage of the drug in the open market.
The Gujarat government stockpiled over 1 crore shots of the medicine as it became clear that this can be a useful medicine against coronavirus, he said, adding that the drug is manufactured in a large quantity in the state.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani recently said three companies from the state have been asked to produce hydroxychloroquine to export it to the US, after President Trump asked the Indian government for its supply.
On the effectiveness of the drug in the fight against coronavirus, Koshia said some studies, especially in France, say that it works.
“The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended that this drug should be given to frontline health workers who are involved in treating those suffering from COVID-19,” he said.
Earlier, India had banned the drug’s export after it was found that it can be key to the treatment of COVID-19.
However, after requests of US President Trump and from other countries, the export curbs were partially lifted.
Gujarat has so far reported over 570 COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths.