The Madras High Court has directed the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to consider a representation made by a medical researcher for conducting clinical trials of beta-adrenergic blockers, a drug that costs less than ₹2 per tablet, to treat COVID-19 patients.
Justices Vineet Kothari and R. Suresh Kumar directed the ICMR to give an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner, N. Vasanthakumar of Uthangarai in Krishnagiri district, and then dispose of his representation by passing appropriate orders as expeditiously as possible.
According to the petitioner, beta-adrenergic blockers could prove beneficial to COVID-19 patients with hypertension by regulating their blood pressure and decreasing cellular entry of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
In an affidavit filed through his counsel Arvind Srevatsa, he claimed, “In low doses, beta-adrenergic blockers may be beneficial in COVID-19 patients with normal blood pressure as it may decrease the SARS-CoV-2 entry into the cell.”
Regarding the credentials of the petitioner, the court was told that he had completed MBBS from the Madras Medical College in 2002 and had obtained an M.Phil in neurosciences from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in 2006. Thereafter, he did his MD in physiology from the Christian Medical College in Vellore and worked as a senior research fellow at a biological psychiatry lab under Dr. John P. John. He was also a visiting researcher at Dr. Sen Cheng’s Lab at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.
In the meantime, he had penned articles and hypothesised a potential drug that might be beneficial to COVID-19 patients, and had sent copies of it to ICMR, along with a request to conduct clinical trials. However, since no concrete action had been taken, he approached the court.
“The treatment through adrenergic blockers in COVID-19 patients will be very cost-effective and will benefit the public at large…It has been used by doctors for many years for treating various medical illnesses, and has a good safety profile,” he claimed.