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Modi govt is monitoring daily production of HCQ, drug inspectors posted at Zydus, Ipca sites




A pack of Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate medication | Bloomberg
A pack of Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate medication | Bloomberg

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has posted drug inspectors at manufacturing sites of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to monitor daily production of the drug that is increasingly being touted as the best bet for the treatment of Covid-19.

HCQ also holds strategic value to the Government of India as a number of countries, particularly the US, have turned to New Delhi for its supply.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has posted drug inspectors at nine production sites of two pharmaceutical companies — Mumbai-based Ipca Labs and Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila.

The two companies are the largest producers of HCQ in India.

“Our objective is to oversee the day-to-day production of the drug including how much raw material is being procured, how much of it is being used, how much tablets are produced and how many of them are sold and where,” an official from the health ministry told ThePrint. “The idea of posting inspectors is to prevent the drug from going into the black market. We don’t want companies to misreport stock.”

The official added, “Drug inspectors have been posted at five sites of Ipca Labs and at four sites of Zydus Cadila.”

ThePrint had reached out to Ipca Labs and Zydus Cadila via email for their comments but no response had been received till the time of publishing. This report will be updated when they respond.

Also read: ICMR advises ‘pool testing’ in low-infection areas to increase number of Covid-19 tests

The Covid-19 drug

Hydroxychloroquine, a popular anti-parasitic medication, has been around since the 1940s. It is used to treat malaria.

The drug is a derivative of chloroquine and has fewer side-effects.

Chloroquine works by increasing the levels of haem or heme — a substance toxic to the malarial parasite — in the blood. This kills the parasite and stops the infection from spreading.

According to some Chinese studies, “chloroquine has strong anti-viral effects on SARS-CoV infection of primate cells”.

SARS-CoV-2 is the novel coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 infection.

According to price and drug availability watchdog National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA), India has a capacity to produce 40 metric tonnes of HCQ, which means 20 crore tablets of 200 mg per month.

The country consumes around 20-27 lakh tablets per month mostly for rheumatoid arthritis and under malaria elimination programmes.

Also read: Andaman & Nicobar has started conducting ‘pool tests’ for Covid-19 — first in the country

Drawing global attention

The drug drew global attention after US President Donald Trump last month called it a “game changer”, and proposed its use for Covid-19 cases.

The US later handed “sizeable” orders to Indian pharma firms, following which, around 30 countries including Brazil and several SAARC nations reached out to India for HCQ supply.

The Indian government also procured 10 crore HCQ tablets for domestic consumption.

The central government’s affordable medicines scheme, Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana, further rolled out tenders for procurement of 1 crore tablets for its retail outlets.

Procurement is necessary as Indian government has advised consumption of HCQ for two categories — healthcare workers dealing with Covid-19 patients and household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.

Also read: After HCQ, countries begin to call India for the humble pain and fever tablet paracetamol

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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