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The story behind ivermectin use in India

Interview and article by Christine Clark.

Dr Suryakant explains how a white paper enabled him and his colleagues to argue the case for ivermectin use and resulted in Government support for ivermectin-based treatment and prophylaxis in Uttar Pradesh.

The White Paper was published in July 2020 but the story started in April 2020. Dr Suryakant, who is head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at King George Medical University in Lucknow, was asked to go to Agra, where covid-19 infection was rampant. His task was to review the situation and advise on how the disease might be controlled. 

Dr Suryakant’s first suggestion was targeted covid testing of vegetable vendors. In Uttar Pradesh vegetable vendors go from door to door selling vegetables and Dr Suryakant estimates that each vendor was potentially able to infect about 4000 people.  “People buying vegetables were getting a free gift of covid-19”, he explained.  He recommended that vendors be tested and only be allowed to return to work if they tested negative.

Whilst in Agra a colleague from a small hospital visited and explained that he was already using ivermectin to treat covid-19 and sought Dr Suryakant’s opinion.  This stimulated his interest and prompted him to review the literature relating to ivermectin. As he had previously been president of Indian Chest Society he was quickly able to contact colleagues in respiratory medicine. One pivotal contact was Dr Agam Vora in Mumbai, who was the co-author on the White Paper. Dr Suryakant gathered a group of 19 experienced doctors who met virtually, reviewed the literature and set out their findings in a white paper to support the case for ivermectin use in India. The White paper was published in July 2020 and then the case was made to the Indian Government. Dr Suryakant recalls that he signed off the document on 5th August 2020 and on 6th August the Government issued the order – “a commitment from the Government”, he comments.  “From 6th August onwards, Uttar Pradesh became first state in India to have an official protocol for the use of ivermectin and doxycycline along with some supportive drugs like zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B, steam inhalation and plenty of water”, he says.

The respiratory physicians were “very impressed with the safety issue and the cost issue”, he explains.  At that time they did not know whether ivermectin would be 30% effective or 70% effective “but we were sure it was safe – our people would be safe”, he adds.

Dr Suryakant is brand ambassador for covid vaccination in India. He is a respiratory physician and past president of several chest associations in India. He has also held a leadership position in the Indian Medical Association, a body with 400,000 members.

Read and watch the full series on our website or on YouTube.

Find Dr Suryakant’s YouTube channel here.