India's Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has executed a policy reversal that could have massive implications for the battle against covid-19, not only in India but around the world. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, are at providing stake. Providing no explanation whatsoever, the DGHS has overhauled its COVID-19 treatment guidelines and removed almost all of the repurposed medicines it had previously recommended for treating asymptomatic and mild cases. They include the antibiotic doxycycline, hydroxychloroquine zinc, ivermectin and even multivitamins. The only medicines that are still recommended for early treatment are cold medicines, antipyretics such as paracetamol and inhaled budesonide.
"No other covid-specific medication [is] required," say the new guidelines, which also discourage practitioners from prescribing unnecessary tests such as CT scans.
"Patients are advised to seek tele consultation; and Covid-19 appropriate behaviour must be observed such as mask, strict hand hygiene and physical distancing… [Patients are also advised to maintain] a healthy diet with proper hydration… [and] to stay connected [with family] and engage in positive talks through phone, video-calls, etc."
The decision to remove ivermectin, multivitamins and zinc from the treatment guidelines is hard to comprehend given the current state of play in India — unless one assumes foul play. After suffering one of the worst covid-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, India is not just flattening the curve, it is crushing it. And the widespread use of ivermectin, a potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory with an excellent safety profile, appears to have played an instrumental role.