SRINAGAR — With 21 positive cases and a death due to the novel (new) coronavirus in Kashmir valley so far, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday has urged doctors to use arthritis drug, hydroxychloroquine for patients who are diagnosed with the viral infection.

“That would save lives and prevent spread of the disease,” said DAK President, Dr Nisar ul Hassan.

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“A French study published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents has shown promising results for hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the virus, and when used with Azithromycin, it significantly reduced the viral load,” he said.

“According to the study, at day 6 of treatment 70 percent of the patients who received hydroxychloroquine had cleared the virus and 100 percent of the patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin combo were virologically cured,” he added.

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Dr Nisar said weighing the findings, the results are enough for us to recommend the treatment for COVID-19 patients, considering the graveness of the pandemic and the lack of available treatment.

He said in addition to the direct therapeutic role, the combo drug can play a role in controlling the disease epidemic by limiting the duration of virus shedding which can last for several weeks in the absence of specific treatment.

Dr Nisar said the combo treatment could prevent severe disease and spare the hospitals and healthcare systems from most expensive and invasive care of ICU’s and ventilators. “Clinicians across the world are using the drug combo, and it is working and saving lives,” he said.

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“We can’t see people dying. We can’t deny an off-label drug to a patient when it is backed by solid scientific evidence,” Dr Nisar said. “Off-label means to use the drug for other reasons than what the FDA has approved the drug for,” he said, adding “a doctor is legally free to prescribe a drug for any reason that he or she thinks is medically appropriate, and when there are no other options available,” he said.

“ICMR has recommended hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medication for healthcare workers and household contacts of confirmed cases. The recommendation needs to be expanded, and clinicians should be authorized to use the drug for treatment. The restrictive use will take a heavy toll on patients and the community at large,” cautioned Dr Nisar.

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