Hydroxychloroquine sustained dose and PPE can reduce COVID-19 risk in healthcare workers, ICMR study says

ICMR continues to insist that the anti-malarial drug has the potential to minimise the chances of healthcare workers contracting the novel coronavirus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and a recent study in The Lancet might have thrown doubt on the prophylactic benefits of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in reducing COVID-19 risks, but the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) continues to insist that the anti-malarial drug has the potential to minimise the chances of healthcare workers contracting the novel coronavirus - especially when used in conjunction with personal protection equipment (PPE).

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

ICMR study recommends maintenance doses

This conclusion is based on the ICMR’s case-controlled study, the findings of which have been published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR). The study examined randomly drawn participants from the national-level COVID-19 testing data portal maintained by the ICMR, some of whom were COVID-19 positive and the others were part of a control group. The participants were given a questionnaire to understand the procedures they conducted as well as their PPE use and HCQ consumption.

The study revealed, on the one hand, that healthcare workers performing endotracheal intubation had a much higher risk of getting infected by the SARS-CoV-2 and simply consuming HCQ did not reduce this risk. On the other hand, the study found that taking “four or more maintenance doses of HCQ was associated with a significant decline in the odds of getting infected.”

This research was, therefore, able to underline the fact that a dose-response relationship (where the response depends on the dose) exists between the frequency of taking HCQ and reduction in the number of infections among healthcare workers. Moreover, the findings of this study also showed that “the use of PPE was independently associated with the reduction in odds of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2.”

Takeaways for healthcare workers from this study

Now, your major takeaway from this might be that sustained consumption of four or more doses of HCQ along with proper PPE use can reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection in the general public as well. However, this is not what the ICMR is recommending. The findings of this study are expected to aid in protecting the healthcare workers “at the forefront of the COVID-19 response”.

This research clearly indicates that HCQ consumption by healthcare workers should start before the infection is contracted and its recommendations comply with the sustained dosage recommended by the National Task Force. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), this dosage is “400 mg twice a day on Day 1, followed by 400 mg once weekly for next seven weeks” for healthcare workers. Reports suggest that if this dosage and use of PPE is complied with, reduced risks of contracting COVID-19 can be observed from around the fourth week.

So, while the WHO is set to decide whether its HCQ trial’s suspension will continue in the coming 24 hours, ICMR’s study suggests that the continued use of this anti-malarial medication is still recommended for healthcare workers at the frontline.

For more information, read our article on Is Hydroxychloroquine really effective against COVID-19?.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

Also Read: Two studies that showed Hydroxychloroquine's negative effects on COVID-19 patients are being called into question

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