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No major side-effects: India to continue using Hydroxychloroquine as preventive medicine

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New Delhi, May 26: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Tuesday that no major side-effects of antimalarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) have been found in studies in India and its use can be continued in preventive treatment for COVID-19 under strict medical supervision.

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The ICMR's statement came against the backdrop of the World Health Organization (WHO) temporarily suspending the testing of the drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19 over safety concerns.

"The COVID-19 is an evolving field and we do not know which drug is working and which is not working. A lot of drugs are being repurposed for COVID-19, whether for prophylaxis or for treatment of COVID-19," ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said, according to news agency PTI.

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    "We found there were no major side-effects except for nausea, vomiting, palpitation occasionally. Hence in our advisory, we have recommended that it should be continued for prophylaxis as there is no harm. Benefit may be there," he said.

    He said it has been "clearly advised that HCQ should be taken with food, not on empty stomach".

    "We also emphasized that one ECG (Electrocardiogram) should be done during the treatment. We expanded the use of HCQ from healthcare workers to front-line workers also, considering the potential benefits," he added.

    Hydroxychloroquine has been touted by Donald Trump and others as a possible treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The US President has said he was taking the drug to help prevent infection.

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