12 May, 2021

Placebo Effect

As new trials show repurposed drugs are useless for Covid, should India rethink its treatment protocols?

Illustration by Saahil
Placebo Effect

Comprehensive clinical trials of repurposed drugs—exi­sting medicines reused for the treatment of diseases they were originally not meant to cure—on COVID-19 patients have established that none of them has any positive benefits. About half-a-dozen drugs, manufactured to treat various other diseases, were initially claimed to be effective for Covid patients on the basis of clinical trials. For instance, a study in France on 30 patients provided early evidence of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as an effective medicine to shorten the duration of Covid infection in patients. Primarily meant to prevent and treat malaria as well as for rheumatoid arthritis, HCQ emerged as a repurposed drug to provide protection and early recovery from Covid. This prompted governments in India and other countries to include HCQ in the treatment protocol.

Gradually, more existing medicines such as remdesivir, lopinavir, interferon, tocilizumab and dexamethasone showed positive results in clinical trials for Covid patients. India’s health ministry included all of them in its...

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