New Delhi: Paracetamol, antibiotics, HIV and antivirals drugs — all ‘supporting’ therapies administered to patients suffering from the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, are widely available in India, according to India’s largest chemist lobby, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD).
“We have checked the availability of stock for paracetamol, antibiotics and antiviral medicines. We can assure an uninterrupted supply for the next 90 days, which is three months,” Rajiv Singhal, general secretary of AIOCD, a lobby of 8.5 lakh chemists and traders, told ThePrint.
The lobby includes distributors and traders selling medicines to hospitals, including drugs for HIV that are not sold on retail chemist outlets.
As the virus makes inroads into India, with at least 39 people affected so far, drugmakers and pharmacists have begun assessing their stocks, anticipating an increase in demand in the local markets.
“We have enough stock for paracetamol, oseltamivir, lopinavir and ritonavir along with other essential antibiotics,” added Singhal.
While paracetamol reduces fever and body aches, oseltamivir is used to treat flu-like symptoms. Antiretrovirals Lopinavir and ritonavir keep HIV from reproducing and slows down the destruction of the immune system.
While the role of antiretroviral drugs to treat coronavirus is still being investigated, the Drug Controller General of India had, in February, approved the “restricted use” of a combination of anti-HIV drugs along with other medicines used as a possible therapy against coronavirus in China.
“India is the largest producer of HIV drugs in the world. We consume only 10 per cent of the total production, whereas the majority of drugs are exported to African nations. There have been no constraints on production till now,” said an official working with Hyderabad-based Aurobindo Pharmaceuticals, one of India’s top drugmakers for HIV medicines.
Dinesh Dua, chairman, Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) — an export arm under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry — echoed a similar opinion.
“There will be no shortage of drugs for domestic consumption. Currently, paracetamol is widely used in the treatment for coronavirus which is adequately available in the market. Also, India can jack the production of HIV drugs, anytime,” Dua said.
Flu and HIV drugs have shown improvements
The combination of flu and HIV medications may be able to treat severe cases of COVID-19, said doctors in Thailand who have been caring for infected patients.
“The team’s approach, which used large doses of the flu drug oseltamivir combined with HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, improved the conditions of several patients at the Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok,” says a report.
It is, however, yet to be established if the condition of patients have improved significantly, according to a report by Reuters. “From testing positive for 10 days under our care, after applying this combination of medicine, the test result became negative within 48 hours,” the report quoted a doctor as saying.
In another case, a man suffering from coronavirus was successfully treated using the HIV drugs in Spain recently. Doctors there claimed to have used a combination of antiretroviral medication lopinavir-ritonavir with interferon beta — a protein which stops cells from becoming infected, says a report.
The head of infectious diseases at Madrid’s Ramón y Cajal hospital, Santiago Moreno, said the “SARS-CoV-2 protease is very similar to that of HIV”.
Paracetamol for treatment
Kerala, which encountered the first three positive cases of coronavirus in India, had successfully treated these affected patients with paracetamol for mild symptoms, accompanied by other drugs.
“The three patients in Kerala had very mild symptoms. So we gave them supportive medicines like paracetamol and other drugs related to their needs. This also includes medication for cold and cough,” Dr Amar Fetle, who is in-charge of the anti-nCoV task force in the state, had earlier told ThePrint.
Similar treatment is now being given to patients admitted at isolation wards in Delhi-based Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital.
“The treatment we are giving is based on symptoms. Use of paracetamol is high along with antibiotics to treat infection. Flu medicine is also given based on the symptoms,” said a doctor at RML hospital, requesting anonymity.
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