Centre cautions against ‘misuse’ of drugs in treating Covid-19


Anti-viral pill Molnupiravir has not been added to the treatment protocol for Covid-19, top health ministry representatives said, cautioning against the use and misuse of medicines in treating rising coronavirus cases.

‘Narrow window’

The National Task Force on Covid-19 has recommended limiting the use of Molnupiravir as the “known and unknown” risk from the drug out-weighed its benefits, Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR, said during a briefing on Wednesday. The drug was recently given regulatory approvals and more than a dozen companies are in the process of launching the drug which is typically given early in the infection to cut the progression of the disease, leading to hospitalisation.

After extensive discussion and review of data from three trials of the drug, experts concluded that Molnupiravir did not merit inclusion in national treatment guidelines as the current clinical window of application of the drug appeared “extremely narrow with relevance only to a few”, said Bhargava.

Also see: Covaxin booster shot works against Omicron, Delta: Study

The drug benefits the elderly and unvaccinated with comorbidities, and there was no evidence that showed it benefited diabetics and those with previous infection or vaccinated, he said.

Previous overuse

Coming down strongly on the rampant overuse of drugs — including steroids and Remdesivir — during the second wave, Niti Aayog Member – Health, Dr VK Paul, said, “Last time we saw a horrible situation, and to a great extent the (overuse of) medicines was responsible for that situation.”

The outbreak of fungal infection mucormycosis was aggravated because of the overuse of steroids, he said.

“Steroids are important lifesaving drugs. But they too have side effects and disturb immunological protection,” Paul said, adding that Remdesivir was the other example of overuse, causing panic during the second wave. “That was a big lesson for us. None of us would wish to repeat it.”

He urged the medical fraternity to go with the clear treatment guidelines that included paracetamol, cough syrup and inhalers for mild symptoms, and drugs including Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, depending on the need.

Surging caseload

The Centre’s caution comes even as late-evening data coming in from Delhi and Mumbai reported an increase in Covid cases. Delhi reported 27,561 new Covid-19 cases and 40 deaths in the last 24 hours. The positivity rate touched 26 per cent. Mumbai too, after a dip over the last few days, saw an increase in new cases at 16,420 and seven deaths.

Also see: Fresh Covid wave may slow down logistics activity pickup

With over 4,800 Omicron cases now being reported in 28 States, Health Ministry officials cautioned that it was no common cold.

As on Wednesday morning, India reported close to two lakh new cases, 60,405 recoveries and 442 deaths in 24 hours. A total of 17,61,900 tests were conducted with daily test positivity rate at 11.05 per cent.

Targeted testing

Explaining the Centre’s recent decision to undertake targeted testing, Bhargava said India has adequate capacity to make the testing kits and to get tests done.

India can make 71 lakh RTPCR kits and 79 lakh RAT test kits daily, with a testing capacity of about 20 lakh each day through 3,128 laboratories capable of doing RTPCR tests.

Also see: Anti-virals and their risks: Know your Molnupiravir

Further, he added, apart from genome sequencing methods to detect Omicron, there was an indigenous solution developed by Tata MD and checked and validated by ICMR-NIV.

“This will be rolled out rapidly, very soon. The kit will be able to test for and detect Omicron like a PCR test, taking the same amount of time of 2-3 hours,” he said.

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