New Delhi, April 16: A petition filed in the Supreme Court contends that seriously ill coronavirus (COVID-19) patients in intensive care units in hospitals are subjected to “controversial, unproven, non-specific and potentially toxic off-label” use of anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine and broad-spectrum antibiotic Azithromycin without taking any precautionary measures to prevent cardiac complications and possible death.

NGO People for Better Treatment, through its president Dr. Kunal Saha, drew the court’s attention to an extraordinary bulletin issued jointly on April 8 by the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) with stark warnings to doctors about the use of these two drugs on COVID-19 patients with existing cardiac conditions, The Hindu reported.

The bulletin had said the use of these drugs on patients with cardiac conditions would possibly trigger arrythmia (abnormal heartbeat), heart failure and even death. It had advised to follow specific therapeutic measures in such cases.

“Most of the drugs presently being used to treat COVID-19 patients are based primarily on anecdotal evidence and not on direct scientific data because very little actual research has been published on this new strain of coronaviruses which was isolated for the first time only a few months ago. COVID-19 patients receive primarily symptomatic therapy because no specific drug against the new SARS-CoV-2 viruses has been invented till now… Needless to say that when treating the vulnerable patients with an unproven drug for its off-labeluse, doctors should be extra vigilant about its potential harmful adverse effects on COVID-19 patients,” the petition said.

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