Representative Image
Representative Image
Photo Credit: AFP

Swine flu, malaria and HIV drugs are helping cure Covid-19 patients. For want of a specific vaccine or medication for Covid-19, doctors have been forced to fall back on hydroxychloroquine, oseltamivir and Lopinavir and other medicines as the course of treatment so far. The same line of treatment is being used for patients ranging in age from 35 to 70.

However, doctors have cautioned people against self-medication.

Covid-19 or SARS-CoV-2, the new strain of coronavirus, has no vaccine or specific treatment. Doctors in Mumbai have had a fair measure of success in curing patients with a combination of drugs used to treat swine flu, malaria and HIV. So far, 202 have recovered and been discharged.

As earlier reported by The Free Press Journal, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had, in March, approved the use of Tamiflu (oseltamivir or Fluvir, an antiviral used in treatment of swine flu), hdroxychloroquine, (a medication used to prevent and treat malaria) and the antiretroviral, Lopinavir, (used to treat HIV patients) for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

The treatment protocol of some of the cured patients shows that this cocktail of drugs has been successful in fighting the virus.

On March 21, a 45-year-old man, a resident of Madanpura with a travel history, was admitted to Kasturba Hospital after he complained of fever, cold, dry cough and bodyache. He had a history of hypertension. Doctors had treated him with hydroxychloroquine and he was also given multivitamins, and antibiotics like azithromycin and cetirizine. The patient responded to the medicines and tested negative in two consecutive swab test reports, and was discharged on March 31.

Similarly, a 69-year-old Andheri woman, who along with her husband, was the first patient in Mumbai to be diagnosed with Covid-19 on March 11. The patient and her 70-year-old husband were admitted

to Kasturba Hospital on March 10, having been detected through contact tracing. When she was admitted, she had a cough, fever, mild breathlessness and loss of appetite. The patient had a travel history to Dubai. She had a history of diabetes and hypertension, for which she was was given a 10-day course of Omen for acidity along with the antibiotic - levoflox (500mg). For her breathing problem, she was given Duolin neb, as her airways had narrowed from the infection. She took almost 12 days to recover.

However, her husband, whose right lung was filled with fluid due to pneumonia, needed more time to recover. He was administered the same three-drug combination. For his pneumonia, he was given 4.45 gm of Piptaz injections (antibiotics) and was kept on a diet for diabetics. Eventually, he also recovered and the couple was discharged from the hospital on March 24.

“They were the first patients to be treated with a combination of Hydroxychloroquine, Tamiflu and Lopinavir. Though there is no specific evidence about the treatment effectiveness of these drugs, it was an experiment which actually worked,” said a doctor from the hospital who was involved in her treatment.

The husband of the Andheri woman said, “For the first few days, she was very weak and her legs would tremble. But now, she is absolutely fine and able to do household chores without getting breathless.”

However, according to doctors, the husband still needs time to overcome weakness. “On the 10th day of my admission at the hospital, I kept vomiting. I thought I wouldn’t survive but I did. Though I sometimes feel dizzy if I have been standing for a while,” he said.

The HIV medicines were earlier used to treat patients during the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002, another respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus which can prove fatal.

However, doctors caution people with symptoms and Covid-19 positive patients from taking the drugs on their own, without medical supervision. “Every patient has different health issues and keeping those in mind, we prescribe the medicines. Some patients may need Lopinavir, others may need Hydroxychloroquine. So, it could be risky and even prove fatal if purchased over-the-counter and consumed without the doctor's advice,” said Dr Daksha Shah, deputy health officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

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