The Government is administering potent drugs to about 25 million people of Kerala (India) today just because a small fraction of them are infected with filaria. This, it claims, would help to eradicate filariasis. The claim has never been proven though the mass drug administration had been going on for years now.
(Mass drug administration is a national programme and the Government claims that nearly five per cent of the population is infected. Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Wayanad districts of Kerala are excluded as the disease is not endemic there. According to the Government, about 6.3 million people are at the risk of catching the disease in Kerala.)
A government that cannot even bring down the density of mosquitoes sufficiently is claiming that it could eliminate the parasites carried by them. If it had checked the mosquito population, several diseases such as Dengue fever, chikungunya and malaria besides filariasis could have been controlled. (KeralaViews is not forgetting that there are different varieties of mosquitoes involved. But the strategy for their elimination could be largely common).
The drugs being administered massively are diethyl carbamazene citrate and albendazole. Both are known to cause a variety of side effects. Though such side effects are not common, the number of incidents would be quite a number in a population of 25 million. While the side effects of DEC would be minimal in uninfected people, its administration could result in severe allergies in infected people. The allergy is caused by microfilaria killed by the drug.
Much more worrisome is the warning that albendazole should not be taken by pregnant women as it could harm the fetus and cause birth defects. Women are advised to take contraceptives for one month after administration of the drug. They should also not take it if they doubt that they are a few weeks pregnant. The general public is not aware of the needed precautions, and even if they are, many may not know that they are pregnant or may ignore the warning. The result would be a higher number of deformed babies.
It may be recalled that doctors used to prescribe DEC to infected persons for 12 days. Now, they say that a single dose would do. Then they want everybody to take it irrespective of whether a person has an infection or not. (A drug, it is to be remembered, is no vitamin supplement). So, the market for the drug would never be dull.