President Donald Trump recently thanked PM Modi for lifting the restrictions on the export of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), the anti-malaria drug, to which PM Modi replied, “times like these bring friends closer”. 

This has come after US’s threat to India to release those drugs, failing which the US would have no option but to retaliate against India. But, what is the hydroxychloroquine drug and can it really help in fighting COVID-19?

What is HCQ? 

Hydroxychloroquine drug or the anti-malaria drug which is used to treat malaria in particular areas where malaria is sensitive to chloroquine. It is an anti-inflammatory drug and can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. 

India is one of the largest suppliers of this drug and has the potential to produce 40 metric tonnes of HCQ every month, that is 20 crore 200 mg tablets.

Can it cure Coronavirus? 

The short and straightforward answer to this question would be: no. HCQ can’t cure Coronavirus as no study or research has proved this yet. So, why is Trump fighting with India over it? While it is true that the drug cannot fully cure COVID-19, certain anecdotal studies have shown that this drug can reduce viral loads in a COVID-19 patient.

Certain countries like the US, UK, Spain and Australia are holding clinical trials to test this claim. 

In an experimental study, Indian Council of Medical Research had allowed the use of HCQ as a preventive treatment only for high–risk people, like medical staff or those who come in direct contact with Coronavirus patients. It has even allowed the use of HCQ mixed with Azithromycin, an anti-biotic for severely ill Coronavirus patients.

Following the India-US row over the export of HCQ, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed emergency use authorization for two anti-malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, to treat COVID-19 patients. 

Studies on HCQ and Coronavirus 

There are multiple studies that are underway to show whether or not HCQ can in fact cure Coronavirus or not. A study in China that happened in a small and controlled environment found that the result was good, but also cautioned that it needed further study. A French study combined the drug with a popular Antibiotic showed no evidence of rapid anti-viral clearance.

The whole world is battling COVID-19 together and on an individual level to the best of its ability. The use of HCQ is one such push into the dark in the hope that you struck gold. Till then, we would have to wait to find the final answer to whether HCQ is effective on COVID-19 patients or not as they will only be clear when large-scale clinical testings are done.