On the face of the ravaging second-wave of COVID-19 pandemic that has already killed thousands of defenseless Indians and countless others with milder disease are treated at home, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW), nation’s two top health regulatory authorities have advised conflicting treatment guidelines for home-bound COVID-19 patients with “mild disease”. The treatment controversy proposed by ICMR and MOHFW for Indian doctors is linked with whether unproven anti-malarial drug, Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), should or should not be used for treatment of in-home COVID-19 patients who are asymptotic or having mild disease. HCQ has shown to have no positive role against COVID-19 and it can even cause serious adverse effects on patients with pre-existing heart condition. Most medical experts around the world have already rejected any use of HCQ in COVID-19 patients and FDA has also banned its use to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Ironically, after the disgraced ex-US president, Donald Trump, touted use of HCQ as a “magic drug” against COVID-19 without any scientific evidence only for political reasons, Indian government also echoed his call and started massive campaign to use HCQ for treatment of COVID-19. PBT lodged a PIL in the Supreme Court against ICMR and MOHFW against their irrational use of HCQ in COVID-19 patients and Apex Court disposed of the said PIL with specific direction for ICMR to consider PBT’s scientific contentions presented in the PIL. This matter is still being fought by PBT with the leaders of the ICMR and MOHFW.
ICMR issued a “clinical guidance” for doctors on 22nd April, 2021 that HCQ can be used to treat COVID-19 patients at home. But only days later on 5th May, 2021, MOHFW posted their “revised guidelines” for treatment of in-home COVID-19 patients in which only anti-parasite drug, Ivermectin, but no HCQ was recommended. We are confused why this contrasting guidelines issued for treatment of COVID-19 patients by the two supreme governmental medical regulatory authorities in India? If HCQ plays a beneficial role against COVID-19 as ICMR recommended, why the MOHFW rejected it’s use? And if MOHFW did not recommend any use of HCQ for in-home COVID-19 patients for possible adverse effects, why ICMR prompted that doctors may use it on their patients? PBT has written to ICMR director demanding immediate clarification of this confusing situation with HCQ. But many doctors across India perhaps already used (or not used) HCQ on their hapless COVID-19 patients based depending on the recommendation from ICMR or MOHFW – and if anybody is harmed for such shocking failure in communication between ICMR and MOHFW, who would be responsible?