Doctor who took anti-malaria drug amid Covid-19 outbreak dies

By SM.30 Mar, 2020


A doctor in Assam, who health officials say took an anti-malaria drug that has apparently shown some effect against the coronavirus disease Covid-19, has died due to a heart attack, his colleagues said.

It was not clear if the use of hydroxychloroquine is connected to the death of Utpaljit Barman, 44, a senior anaesthetist at Guwahati-based Pratiksha Hospital, a private health facility.

Barman died at another private hospital in the city after he was admitted there on Sunday afternoon following heart-related complications, according to his colleagues.

“Several doctors are using hydroxychloroquine as self-medication to prevent Covid-19. Barman too took it,” said Nirmal Kumar Hazarika, Pratiksha Hospital’s medical superintendent.

He added that Barman did not have underlying health conditions and that doctors were not sure if his death could be linked to hydroxychloroquine.

“We are not sure how many doses he had taken; probably it was two doses,” Hazarika said.

Anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has been approved by the national task force of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as a prophylaxis – a treatment to prevent a disease – for people at “high risk” of contracting Covid-19.

No Covid-19 positive case has been found in Assam till date and only government labs and hospitals are authorised to test and treat patients or those showing symptoms of Covid-19. But there are reports of some doctors in private hospitals taking hydroxychloroquine as a precaution.

The use of the drug for the infection with flu-like symptoms has been recommended for two categories — asymptomatic (not showing symptoms of the disease) healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases that live in close proximity with patients.

The government has warned people against the indiscriminate use of hydroxychloroquine after reports that there has been a rush to buy the medicine, which can have severe side effects in people with a history of heart and kidney ailments, among other underlying conditions.

India has also banned the export of this drug. To be sure, large, controlled clinical trials are needed to come to a conclusion on the efficacy of the medicine in Covid-19 cases.