We must, we are assured listen to the experts and stick to the facts when it comes to COVID-19. Masks help stop spread of the disease. So does social distancing. Even crowding together in an outdoor stadium can be incredibly dangerous. There are no cures for the disease, except perhaps the newly invented vaccine. Claims that medications like hydroxychloroquine can have an impact are quackery. Only a fool like Donald Trump would peddle such silliness.
All facts we are told. Well, here are some other facts.
India has a population approaching 1.4 billion. The population density in some of its cities is almost beyond belief. In fact, the top two most densely populated cities on the planet are both in India. Mumbai, which ranks number one has an average population density of almost 77,000 people per square mile. By comparison, not a single city in the United States ranks in the top fifty.
India is a desperately poor nation. Sixty percent of Indians make less than $3.10 a day. Twenty-one percent survive on less than $2.00 a day.
Medical care in India is limited by U.S. standards. India has less than one doctor for every 1,000 people. That ratio in the United States is 2.6. Spending on health care is grossly inadequate. Hospitals are located mostly in major cities, while 75% of the population continues to live in the countryside.
If we added all these “facts” together and applied a little common sense, we would conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic in India must be raging. An incredibly densely populated nation where social distancing is virtually impossible, sanitation is grossly inadequate and the health care system is stressed on good days, should be experiencing an uncontrollable outbreak of the virus, and bodies must be piling up in the morgues.
And, yet, none of that is true. In fact, to the contrary, India shows every indication of having tamed the virus and gotten its outbreak under control.
Last September, India appeared to be on track to overtake the United States with the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world. Hospitals were full. The Indian economy appeared poised to implode.
Four months later, India’s coronavirus numbers have plummeted. Late last month, on Jan. 26, the country’s Health Ministry reported a daily record low of new confirmed cases. Hospital ICU utilization is down. The virus appears to be well on its way to simply vanishing from the nation.
Why? How did a desperately poor nation like India defeat a disease, which has people in the United States so terrified that schools remain closed, businesses shuttered and many too frightened to leave their homes?
Hydroxychloroquine. The Indian government has distributed to date 112 million tablets of the drug, which was widely used already for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and malaria. The WHO months ago announced that it considered the drug at best useless in fighting COVID- 19. The Indian government ignored that assessment and plowed ahead with a massive program to ship the drug to state governments throughout the nation.
In doing so, India has not simply relied upon what might be considered anecdotal evidence of the utility of hydroxychloroquine in treating the virus however. Based on a carefully controlled study, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has formally concluded that hydroxychloroquine has significant utility when used in a prophylactic role and has officially recommended that it be used in this capacity.
The ICMR concluded that sustained use of the anti-malaria drug along with the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) was associated with an 80% decline in the risk of COVID-19 infection healthcare workers. According to Dr. Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Centre for Chest Surgery and Director in Institute of Robotic Surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, hydroxychloroquine was given in very small doses of 400 milligrams a week. The doctor is currently taking the medication personally.
According to the ICMR study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR), consumption of four or more such small maintenance doses was associated with the identified eighty percent decline in the risk of Covid-19 infection. The study found no evidence of adverse reactions to the drug. Among the “participants,” Dr. Balram Bhargava, Director General (DG) of the ICMR, told that media recently that the Council found the drug very effective and the ICMR is now expanding its use.
All of this is, of course, very inconvenient for those who have spent close to a year now ridiculing anyone who dared to suggest that hydroxychloroquine, a cheap, widely available drug, could be of utility in helping us cope the pandemic. It also calls into question the billions of dollars spent on the development of vaccines and the necessity for the United States government to take the extraordinary step of allowing the fielding of vaccines before the completion of full human trials and with a blanket grant of immunity from lawsuit to ensure the drug manufacturers would not be held financially liable for any inconvenient side effects that may pop up.
There will, of course, be many, who despite their alleged fixation on following the facts and the science will simply ignore what is happening in India. They will continue to preach their orthodoxy and “cancel” all those who refuse to fall in line. Still, for me, I would suggest this.
If you want to know if hydroxychloroquine works – go ask the Indians.