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2021 mistakes being repeated, stop unwarranted tests & medicines: Top doctors write to govt

In an open letter, over 30 health experts drew attention to the need for an 'evidence-based response' to the current wave of Covid and listed out policies for immediate implementation.

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New Delhi: A group of top doctors has made an open appeal to the Narendra Modi government, states as well as the Indian Medical Association (IMA) for an “evidence-based response” to the current wave of Covid. They also sought a stop to the use of medications and diagnostics that are “inappropriate for the clinical management” of the virus.

In a letter, over 30 health experts drew attention to the issues of “unwarranted medications, tests and hospitalisations” suggested to Covid patients. They highlighted that Covid “kits” and cocktails, vitamin combinations and a host of medicines were being prescribed to patients, which they labelled an irrational practice.

The practice of “unnecessary CT scans and a battery of laboratory tests” for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases was also criticised in the letter.

Instead, the group of doctors pitched for updating the Directorate General Of Health Services (DGHS) guidelines and publishing home-care guidelines for Covid patients.

Here is the full text:

14 January 2022

Open appeal to all state and central ministries of health, to the Indian Medical Association, and all medical professionals

Urgent need for an evidence-based response to the current wave of Covid-19 in India

Less than one year ago, the devastating Delta wave of the pandemic resulted in the greatest public health emergency of our times. The response to the pandemic, while marked by innumerable examples of personal sacrifice and grit, was riddled with missteps — several of which were avoidable.

While there continues to be much uncertainty amidst the outbreak of this novel disease, there is now substantive high-quality scientific literature that provides unequivocal guidance on the clinical management of Covid-19. Despite the weight of this evidence and the crushing death toll of the Delta wave, we find the mistakes of the 2021 response being repeated in 2022.

We urge you to intervene to stop the use of medications and diagnostics that are inappropriate for the clinical management of Covid-19. We draw your attention to three critical issues:

  1. Unwarranted medications

The vast majority of patients with Covid-19, with asymptomatic and mild symptoms, will require little to no medications. Most prescriptions we have reviewed in the past two weeks include several Covid-19 “kits” and cocktails. The prescribing of vitamin combinations, azithromycin, doxycycline, hydroxychloroquine, favipiravir, and ivermectin for treating Covid-19 is irrational practice. Such wanton use of drugs is not without harm as the Delta wave has shown. Outbreaks of opportunistic fungal infections like mucormycosis in India, and aspergillosis in Brazil were attributed to the widespread abuse of inappropriate medications.

  1. Unwarranted tests

The vast majority of Covid-19 patients will need no additional diagnostics after the initial positive rapid antigen or PCR test, except — in some cases — home monitoring of their oxygen level. There is also growing evidence that while Omicron may cause many breakthrough cases among previously infected or previously vaccinated populations, the morbidity and mortality associated with the disease, among them, will be lower. Yet, CT scans and a battery of laboratory tests like d-dimer and IL-6 are routinely being prescribed by practitioners across the country in asymptomatic and mild cases, placing undue financial burden on families.

  1. Unwarranted hospitalisations

Patients continue to be admitted to hospitals without clinical justification. Unnecessary hospitalisations, besides further adding to the financial load, also risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of other, non-Covid patients that cannot find a hospital bed for more emergent conditions.

Two years into the pandemic, there is no justification whatsoever for allowing these unwarranted practices to continue. Healthcare workers in India rely heavily on government guidelines which had unfortunately promoted expensive diagnostics and medications with limited evidence. The public and the medical community are also subject to gross misinformation on social media. We believe it is incumbent on state agencies and on professional medical societies to put an end to this travesty, in the best interest of the nation.

We therefore request the central and state governments to institute the following policies immediately, with regard to the Covid-19 medical response in India:

  1. Update the evidence-based June 2021 DGHS guidelines. In particular, provide specific guidance on the use of monoclonal antibodies, given their limited efficacy for the Omicron variant, and their continued widespread use.
  1. Through public education and professional training, discourage the use of medications that have no supporting evidence for the treatment of Covid-19, including alternative therapies, potions, antibiotics, “cocktails,” and drugs like Molnupiravir, which are expected to be widely abused and inappropriately prescribed.
  1. Through public education and professional training, discourage the use of unwarranted diagnostics, especially for asymptomatic and mild cases, where none are required, except for confirmatory antigen or PCR tests.
  1. Publish home-care guidelines for rapid testing, quarantining, isolation and release, in all local languages, contextually modified to suit local urban and rural contexts where the availability of rapid antigen home tests and PCR tests varies widely. Include a list of vetted local resources including helpline numbers.
  1. Stop any state-sponsored promotion or distribution of medications, cocktails, alternative therapies or potions that are not scientifically proven therapies.

We underscore the importance of ramping up proven effective public health strategies, including universal masking in all public places. Provide communities the resources to do so through mass media campaigns and the regular distribution of appropriate three-ply masks. Provide all healthcare workers adequate N95s and eye protection. Continue to accelerate vaccination, building on current success.  

We stand ready to provide any assistance asked of us with preparing any of the above material.

We very much hope that you implement these policies with the urgency they merit.

In the spirit of our shared mission of serving patients,

Dr Anant Bhan, Yenepoya (deemed to be University), Mangaluru

Dr Rajani Bhat, Pulmonologist, boardofdoctors.com, Bengaluru

Dr Anjali Chhabria, MindTemple

Dr Sonia Dalal, Dalal Sleep and Chest Medical Institute, Vadodara

Dr Bharat Gopal, Sr Chest Physician, New Delhi

Dr Richa Gupta, Christian Medical College, Vellore

Dr Raghuraj Hegde, Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, Sunrise Hospital, Kakanad, Kerala

Dr Yogesh Jain, Sangwari, Chhattisgarh 

Dr Yogesh Kalkonde, Sangwari, Chhattisgarh 

Dr Charuta Mandke, Dr. R.N. Cooper Municipal General Hospital 

Dr R.K. Mani, Yashoda Super-speciality hospital, Ghaziabad UP

Dr Pavitra Mohan, Basic Healthcare Services 

Dr Nachiket Mor, Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health 

Dr Sanjay Nagral, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai

Dr Cyriac Abby Philips, The Liver Institute, Rajagiri Hospital, Kerala

Dr Ashish Satav, Mahatma Gandhi Tribal Hospital, Amravati

Dr Tushar Shah, Physician

Dr Satendra Singh, University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi

Dr Aqsa Shaikh, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, New Delhi

Dr Zarir Udwadia, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital; Breach Candy Hospital 

Dr Sonali Vaid, Public Health, Incluve Labs

Dr Shitij Arora, Albert Einstein College of Medicine 

Dr Satchit Balsari, Harvard Medical School 

Dr Kartik Cherabuddi, University of Florida Health 

Dr Sumanth Gandra, Washington University School of Medicine 

Dr Manoj Jain, Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health

Dr Manoj Mohanan, Duke University 

Dr Madhukar Pai, McGill University 

Dr Priya Sampathkumar, Mayo Clinic 

Dr Bhavna Seth, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine 

Dr Amita Sudhir, University of Virginia 


Also read: Not just RT-PCR tests, now your ‘smart’ masks will also tell you if you have Covid-19


 

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