Trump-Backed Virus Drug May Be Taken by 15,000 Mumbai Residents

(Bloomberg) -- As many as 15,000 people in Mumbai, including many in Dharavi, Asia’s most crowded slum, will be given an anti-malarial drug as a preventive therapy to ward off the deadly coronavirus.

The first-of-its-kind mass experiment of using hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis is being undertaken in the state of Maharashtra - home to India’s financial center that’s racing to curb the pathogen. Mumbai has emerged as the nation’s biggest virus hotspot, reporting the maximum number of infected cases and deaths.

About “10,000 to 15000 people who are quarantined and suspected to be infected, will be given the drug,” Maharashtra’s Health Minister Rajesh Tope said in an online media briefing on Monday. “Only people having a high risk of infection in Dharavi will be given the drug.”

Trump-Backed Virus Drug May Be Taken by 15,000 Mumbai Residents

The move to administer the much-touted but unproven drug as a preventive therapy on a mass scale highlights the race among local health care officials to curb the highly-infectious pathogen from spreading in Mumbai’s infamously crowded slums. Social distancing is impossible in areas such as Dharavi, where nearly a million people live in 100-square-feet tin hutments shared by as many as ten slum dwellers.

That’s why despite a patchy efficacy record and long list of side-effects, hydroxychloroquine -- called a ‘game changer’ by U.S. President Donald Trump -- is being relied on in Mumbai, which has reported more than 15% of India’s over 18,500 cases and almost one-fourth of its deaths.

Maharashtra’s health minister Tope added that hydroxychloroquine will be given as a prophylaxis to health workers and quarantined people. Those with heart ailments and under the age of 15 or over 60, will not be given the drug, he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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