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Hyderabad: A common over-the-counter cough syrup, fuelled by advocacy on social media, has become the latest most-wanted drug for Covid-19 patients and those looking to tackle the pandemic in their own ways without medical support or advice.

Bromhexine, an untested medication for Covid-19 with no scientific basis for its efficacy in tackling the virus, is quickly becoming popular among Covid patients apart from generating a lot of curiosity.

In fact, since the drug is available over the counter, there are reports that the syrup is very much in demand in medical shops across Hyderabad as a prophylactic (preventive treatment) for Covid.  The drug is also readily available without any prescription across multiple online drug stores, which has made it easy for individuals to procure.

Despite no Randomized Control Trials (RCT) data of Bromhexine, over the last one year, the drug has raised a lot of interest among researchers in India. In fact, CSIR-affiliated institutions, including the city-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Kolkata-based Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), are collaborating with several pharma companies to explore the possibilities of Bromhexine in treatment of Covid. However, so far, no concrete RCT trials on Bromhexine have been published in peer-reviewed journals or pre-prints.

The interest over Bromhexine as a potential treatment to prevent Covid is due to its ability to inhibit a protein known as TMPRSS2 or transmembrane serine protease 2. The SARS-CoV-2 virus requires TMPRSS2 to enter the human body and if TMPRSS2 is inhibited by Bromhexine, then the cell entry of the virus (Covid-19) can be prevented. 

The drug has shown its application in the prevention of influenza infection by inhibiting TMPRSS2, and despite no scientific data, researchers worldwide look at the drug as a possible treatment option for Covid-19.

Senior physicians in Hyderabad involved in treating Covid cases point out that despite several drugs not advised by regulatory bodies, patients and their relatives keep requesting them to prescribe. Cases in point are drugs like Hydroxychloroquine, Favipiravir and Ivermectin that were frequently prescribed by doctors for Covid patients. These drugs quickly fell out of favour after a series of studies indicated that they were not efficient in treating Covid.

Recently, Director of Public Health Dr G Srinivasa Rao also warned individuals with no medical background to avoid making claims or pushing drugs on social media and news channels over unproven therapeutics for Covid treatment.
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