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Govt should educate patients on side effects of hydroxychloroquine: Prof Bejon Kumar Misra

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The Government should immediately communicate to citizens through JAGO GRAHAK JAGO Multi Media Campaign to build awareness amongst citizens not to self-prescribe medication, only buy with proper registered ‘Doctor’s Prescription’

The Delhi-based Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India Foundation proposes that the Government should immediately communicate to the citizens through the JAGO GRAHAK JAGO Multi Media Campaign to build awareness amongst the citizens not to self-prescribe medication and only buy with proper registered ‘Doctor’s Prescription’. The organisation has also recommended that patients should not purchase from unregistered sources, who are selling the medicine for a premium or black-marketing the medicine to ignorant and innocent consumers. 

Giving more details, Prof Bejon Kumar Misra, Founder, Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India Foundation, New Delhi recommends that the National Consumer Helpline 1800-11-4000 and other similar communication tools existing to facilitate the citizens on such matters at the Central and State level should be immediately put into action for reporting such illegal activities so that the citizens can be protected from unscrupulous dealers and retailers profiteering at the cost of health and safety of the consumers under such pandemic situation. As this is urgent, Misra suggests that it should be done by none other than the Prime Minister and telecasted and broadcasted on all TV and radio channels without further delay.

“We should even educate the citizens about the side effects of hydroxychloroquine, without creating panic by stating that it has more benefits compared to side effects like blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headache, and diarrhoea, which may occur, but saving lives is paramount as per ICMR guidelines. We should also state that, if any of these effects persist or worsen, the patient should tell their nearest doctor or pharmacist promptly or report on the Helplines provided for the purpose,” said Prof Misra.

Giving further recommendations, he said they must explain in simple language to the citizens that their doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects hence can be administered safely as per protocol. 

It should also be communicated that patients treated with hydroxychloroquine should inform the treating doctor right away if the patient observes any serious side effects, including: bleaching of hair colour, hair loss, mental / mood changes (such as confusion, personality changes, unusual thoughts / behaviuor, depression), hearing changes (such as ringing in the ears, hearing loss), darkening of skin / tissue inside the mouth, worsening of skin conditions (such as dermatitis, psoriasis), signs of serious infection (such as high fever, severe chills, persistent sore throat), unusual tiredness, swelling legs / ankles, shortness of breath, pale lips / nails / skin, signs of liver disease (such as severe stomach /abdominal pain, yellowing eyes / skin, dark urine), easy bruising / bleeding, muscle weakness, unwanted / uncontrolled movements (including tongue and face twitching).

“I recommend that Government should immediately put into motion a robust tracing and tracking mechanism in order to insulate any kind of misuse of the medicine as India has also agreed to export the same medicine to other countries in the interest of patients and saving lives globally” said Prof Misra. He further elaborated that “I am sure Government and the industry must be privy to several IT based solutions on adopting an effective and efficient tracing and tracking mechanism without delay.”

The organisation has recommended the following to the Government as immediate action points:

 A robust tracking and tracing system put in place in order eliminate the possibility of accessing hydroxychloroquine without a proper well documented prescription from a registered medical practitioner.

Launch a multi-media campaign through JAGO GRAHAK JAGO managed by Department of Consumer Affairs about the side effects of the medicine and the consequences of self-medication or purchasing the medicine without Doctor’s Prescription and without demanding a proper bill and receipt from the sellers. 

Finally, all State Governments should be alerted on the issue in order to sensitise all the helpline numbers and facilitating centres working 24×7 to facilitate the COVID-19 patients to access the medicine only from authorised retail outlets who practice GOOD PHARMACY PRACTICES as prescribed by law. An advisory should also be made by CDSCO and State Drug Controllers that stringent action will be taken in case of violation against the culprits compromising on the health and safety of the patients. Prof Misra further added that “Persons found hoarding the medicine to enrich themselves at the cost of the consumer should be treated under the serious criminal charges.” We should consider allowing as the first step, to dispense hydroxychloroquine through NPPA to the Government managed Pharmacies like JAN AUSHADHI and similar credible not for profit institutions to ensure PAN INDIA availability and accessibility of the medicine to the patients at the least cost and take extra precaution against any kind of diversion and misuse by the authorised retailers allowed to stock the medicine.

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