Hydroxychloroquine now a scheduled H1 drug, recommended for treatment of COVID-19

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Hydroxychloroquine is an oral drug used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. (Representational Image)

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday declared Hydroxychloroquine as a scheduled H1 drug. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of the novel coronavirus for two categories of ‘high-risk population’.

Hydroxychloroquine is an oral drug used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The drug, that has existed for several decades, was recommended for prophylaxis in case of asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.

In a notification issued by the health ministry, it said it is now a schedule H1 drug and it will come with a warning label on its box that will be sold only if prescribed by the doctor. The ministry also said that the drug cannot be taken with self-medication.

"The central government hereby directs that sale by retail of any preparation containing the drug Hydroxychloroquine shall be in accordance with the conditions for sale of drugs specified in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rule, 1945," the notification read.

Last week, US President Donald Trump had said a hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin combination could be a “game changer” in the fight against COVID-19.

On March 19, an article in The Lancet Global Health explored its therapeutic and prophylactic properties. “Notably, the drug shows antiviral activity in vitro against coronaviruses, and specifically, SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-2]. Pharmacological modelling based on observed drug concentrations and in vitro drug testing suggest that prophylaxis with hydroxychloroquine at approved doses could prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and ameliorate viral shedding.”