A doctor in Assam, Utpaljit Barman, 44, a senior anesthetist at Guwahati-based Pratiksha Hospital, 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 as per his colleagues.
It was not clear if the use of hydroxychloroquine is connected to his death. 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. 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,” said Nirmal Kumar Hazarika, Pratiksha Hospital’s medical superintendent.
Anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has been approved by the national task force of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as prophylaxis – a treatment to prevent disease – for people at “high risk” of contracting Covid-19.
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.