India has placed urgent orders for at least 11.45 crore tablets of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). This drug is being directly procured by HLL Lifecare, on behalf of the Union health ministry.
Hindustan Latex Limited (HLL) Lifecare is a government-owned healthcare manufacturing company.
HCQ is an anti-malarial drug and has only been recommended as prophylaxis of COVID-19 as per the national task force for COVID-19.
It is not a cure but this protocol has been recommended by the national task force for mostly frontline health care workers and has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for restricted use in an emergency situation.
A senior official at the health ministry told ANI: "For HCQ, we have placed orders for about 11.45 crore tablets to two Indian firms -- IPCA laboratories and Zydus Cadila. So far, we have received 6.64 crore HCQ drugs and remaining will arrive by May 16."
As per revised guidelines on clinical management of COVID-19, the HCQ tablets are only for restricted and prophylaxis use of COVID-19 in selected eligible persons, the official said.
"Its selected eligible individuals include: (i) asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients, (ii) asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases, (iii) COVID-19 patients with severe disease requiring ICU management," he said and added that these drugs should be administrated under the close medical supervision with monitoring for side effects.
This medication is not recommended for children below 12 years, lactating and pregnant mothers.
The drug is contraindicated in persons with known cases of retinopathy, known hypersensitivity to HCQ, added the official.
According to the official, "Out of 6.64 crore HCQ drugs, the Centre has distributed at least 4.3 crore HCQ tablets to the states and remaining is kept in the Centre-State buffer stock."
Some states have purchased about 3.8 crore HCQ tablets from the manufactures directly.
"Hence, over 10.44 crore HCQ tablets have been available to the states till date," the official said.
If anyone becomes symptomatic while on prophylaxis he/she should immediately contact the health facility, get tested as per national guidelines, and follow the standard treatment protocol, according to government guidelines.
The individual is advised to consult with a physician for any adverse event or potential drug interaction before initiation of medication.
These guidelines are based on currently available information and would be reviewed from time to time as new evidence emerges.
Apart from domestic use, India has also exported close to 3 million of HCQ tablets to 87 countries, garnering praise from heads of state of various nations.
On Friday, the Central government had informed that the production of HCQ has increased to 30 crore tablets in April from an earlier production capacity of 12.33 crore tablets.
A total of 16 crore tablets has been released into the market.