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Health

Web Desk
March 22, 2020

No evidence of chloroquine preventing coronavirus but consulting experts: Dr Zafar Mirza

Health

Web Desk
Sun, Mar 22, 2020
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza addresses a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 22, 2020. Geo News/Screenshot via The News

ISLAMABAD: SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said Sunday evening there was no evidence that using chloroquine was effective in preventing one from coronavirus but that the government was consulting experts in this regard.

Addressing a press conference here in the federal capital, Dr Mirza said reports were rife over the past few days that chloroquine could be used to treat coronavirus. "Especially hydroxychloroquine ... social media is full of such reports and there's discussion about it on electronic media," he noted.

"It's an old medication for malaria and now some research shows that its benefit is it may be used as a treatment for coronavirus.

"We are consulting experts on whether chloroquine can be used to treat the [corona] virus," the special assistant told the media. However, there was no evidence yet that using chloroquine would prevent one from getting coronavirus, he added.

'Prophylactic or preventive use'

The SAPM said studies on chloroquine in international literature had been obtained and that he has set up a group of experts on infectious diseases to form a decisive opinion on the matter, as well as to issue a standard treatment guideline as to how, when, and who could use this drug and in what dosages. Once that was done, "it will be made available on a national level", he said.

With respect to "prophylactic orĀ  preventive use", he clarified that there was no evidence that anyone would be safe from the coronavirus if they ingested this medicine.

"We have issued an advisory through the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and no purchase [of chloroquine] without prescription will be allowed. This advice has been issued to the manufacturers and people," he said.

He noted that there were reports indicating there was a shortage of the drug in the market and that it was not available anymore. In that regard, he said there was a ban on the export of anti-malaria drug and that Pakistan had ample stock of chloroquine.

"In the past 36 hours, we have [checked] the stocks of chloroquine in Pakistan, as medicine tablets and as raw material, and there had already been a ban on its export.

"No individual or company can export it; it's in Pakistan and it's not going anywhere," he said. "We know exactly how many tablets, injections, and syrups are available, and how much raw material is available."

5,650 suspected cases in Pakistan

Dr Mirza also clarified the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan and explained the province-wide breakdown. "The suspected coronavirus cases total 5,650, whereas the confirmed are 646. Three people have died of coronavirus so far.

"Sindh has 292 cases, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 31, Gilgit-Baltistan 55, Azad Jammu and Kashmir one, Islamabad Capital Territory 11, Punjab 152, and Balochistan 104," he added.

The SAPM said the data was "compiled through extremely reliable monitoring" and that it would be updated on the government's website on an hourly basis.

"We will train 5,000 doctors to treat coronavirus," he added.