The Union Health Ministry on Friday issued a fresh advisory on the use of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a key anti-malaria drug, seen as a possible cure for COVID-19 coronavirus infection.

The ministry has stated that HCQ is recommended only under exceptional circumstances and for the protection of high-risk individuals as the drug was found to be effective against Coronavirus only in pre-clinical laboratory studies.

The advisory is based on recommendation of the task force constituted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The advisory states that Hydroxychloroquine is recommended only for two groups — first, healthcare workers treating a COVID-19 patient and second, persons staying with and caring for a household positive patient.

It has recommended not administering the drug to children below the age of 15. People with known case of retinopathy and known hypersensitivity to Hydroxychloroquine or 4-aminoquinoline compounds have been asked not to take the medicine.

The ministry has also advised patients with cardiac irregularities or those suffering from cardiac disease to not consume the drug and it could harm them.

The advisory says that the drug has possible side effects and can be sold only on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner (under Schedule H1).

It is advised to consult with a doctor for any adverse event or potential interaction before initiation of medication.

It further asserts that placing of healthcare workers under chemo-prophylaxis should not instill a sense of false security and added that they should follow all prescribed public health measures.

The advisory comes in the wake of Hydroxychloroquine export being requested by many nations including the United States.

US President Donald Trump recently touted its potential in treating COVID-19 positive patients, requesting India to help his country with supplies.

Ever since the deadly virus spread across nations, Hydroxychloroquine has become one of the most highly demanded drugs worldwide. India, the world’s main supplier of generic drugs, has been finding it difficult to cope with the requests for Hydroxycholoquine received from nearly 30 nations.

Experts, however, have urged caution until bigger trials validate Hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy.