FARAH CITY (Pajhwok): Rumours about the efficacy of Cetirizine for coronavirus patients and the drug’s prescription by doctors on the basis of clinical judgment have no scientific basis.
Medical experts say that Cetirizine Hydrochloride or Cetirizine Hcl, is an anti-allergy tablet that must not be used without a doctor’s prescription.
They add the drug, whose trade name is Zyrtec and genetic name Cetirizine, is used to prevent allergy such as runny nose, cough and nose fever.
Rumors about the benefits of these drugs for Covid-19 patients spread in Afghanistan about a year ago during the outbreak of the virus. Consequently, the price of this medicine saw a 10-fold hike in western Farah province. Some doctors still treat cold and the coronavirus with this drug.
A number of Farah residents told Pajhwok Afghan News the rumor was spread astoundingly fast by word of mouth throughout the province during the first wave of the disease. As a result, the price of one Cetirizine strip shot up from 10 afghanis to 100 afs. Even then the tablet could not be found in pharmacies.
Ghulam Haidar Khan, a resident of Farah’s 3rd police district, said every was being told during the first wave of the disease that Cetirizine was useful in treating coronavirus patients.
Ghulam Haider said: “Everywhere I heard about Cetirizine. I also went to the market to buy this medicine. A week later, I also contracted the virus and used all the tablets in three days, but when I visited the pharmacy for a second time, the price of one strip had skyrocketed from 10 afghanis to 100afs.”
He bought three packets of Cetirizine, but they were not useful in treating the coronavirus. He urged the Ministry of Public Health to improve public awareness about the coronavirus.
Abdul Rahman, another inhabitant of Farah, said: “During the first wave of the coronavirus, rumours spread among the people that Cetirizine was good to treat the disease. Such stories were swapped in every street and market. Locals made beeline in front of pharmacies to buy the medicine.”
He also bought the drug. As rumours spread, the price of one packet of Cetirizine went up from 10afs to 100afs. Subsequently, the tablet vanished from pharmacies into the proverbial thin air.
Some other residents also claimed the use of Cetirizine tablets was not beneficial for Covid patients and that it was nothing more than waste of time and a source of anxiety.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Jilani, a pharmacist in Farah City, confirmed the substantial hike in the price of Cetirizine after the first outbreak of the coronavirus. However, he explained the rate had dropped to 15 afghanis.
Syed Nasir, a resident of Kabul, said: “About a month ago, several members of my family were infected with coronavirus. People told us Cetirizine was beneficial. I bought a packet for 300 afghanis and consulted a doctor as well. The doctor said this medicine is good at it addresses some problems and reduces the severity of the disease.”
Pharmacists in Kabul say the price of a packet of Cetirizine, depending on the rates fixed by manufacturers, sold for 10 to 30 afghanis.
Basir, a Kabul inhabitant, recalled: “About six months ago, rumours were circulating on social media that Cetirizine tablets were useful in treating the coronavirus. My colleagues and I bought the tablets for use in case of need. but later, it was said this medicine was not beneficial for treating this disease.”
Don’t use Cetirizine sans doctor’s prescription
Nabil Paktin, professor of general internal medicine at the Rabia Balkhi Hospital in Kabul, told Pajhwok: “Many physicians make clinical judgments on Cetirizine, looking at their previous experience of recommending the drug for respiratory patients. They are still prescribing it to patients based on that experience.”
He said: “The use of Cetirizine for the coronavirus patient is incorrect, as there is no scientific basis for it. No medicine has so far been discovered to treat the Covid-19 pandemic.”
No research has been conducted yet on this and there is no concrete evidence that Cetirizine has any viral effect, remarked the professor.
Mahtabuddin Nawrozi, an internal disease specialist in Farah province, said: “Cetirizine is provided to people who have shortness of breath (a respiratory issue), cough and fever. It stops secretions in the body and the inflammatory process.”
Nawroi continued the medicine was recommended for the coronavirus patients who were not suffering from diabetes because it was useful in controlling common cold. The drug is not on the World Health Organisation’s list and should not be used to control the coronavirus.
He explained the willful use of this medicine caused dry mouth, restlessness, stomach disorders, diarrhea and so on.
Pajhwok tried to Farah Public Health Department’s view regarding the spread of the rumour and its prevention. But officials refused to speak on the issue.
Dr. Mohammad Arif Zalal, head of the Covid-19 Hospital in Farah, said: “We are not allowed to give interviews on coronavirus-related issues under guidelines from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in Kabul.”
Masuma Jafari, deputy spokesperson for MoPH, agreed that Cetirizine was not useful for coronavirus patients because the drug used to treat allergies.
She said the ministry had always urged the people not to use any medicine on their own and without consulting doctors. Almost all medicines had side-effects, she argued.
There were a number of problems in ems of public awareness during the first wave of Covid-19, but the ministry had streamlined existing programmes in this area, she concluded.
“This Investigative Report was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Pajhwok and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.”
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