In the race to find effective drugs against Covid-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, one experimental drug has stood out under the radar despite promising early results. The drug is chloroquine, one of the oldest and best-known anti-malarial pills. It was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the U.S. in 1949.
There are hopes that drugs like this one could bring major relief to healthcare systems around the world that are feeling the weight of coronavirus pandemic. In treating malaria patients, the medicament has been used to reduce fever and inflammation. On Thursday, President Trump claimed that it had been approved for use in treating the coronavirus. However, the FDA does say that studies are underway to see if it can be effective in the treatment of Covid-19.
A big caveat against the use of Choloquine to treat Covid-19
Not all countries are waiting for the FDA, though. In Australia, researchers have said a combination of chloroquine and Kaletra led to the recovery of some patients with COVID-19. In France, early reports were positive with experimental drugs. When combining the referred medicament with azithromycin, scientists have observed a reduction in the viral load with respect to infected patients. With the use of the drug, China has been able to reduce the recovery time of patients.
Some studies suggest that the medicament seems to block the coronavirus. But, crucially, there have been no complete clinical trials. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that so far there is no definitive evidence of its effectiveness. It is only a part of the continuing trials.
Notice that the drug can have serious side effects, such as damage to the eyes. It can also cause headaches, dizziness, and stomach problems ranging from discomfort to vomiting and diarrhea, headaches and hair loss. The Wuhan Institute of Virology study found that chloroquine can kill an adult just dosed at twice the daily amount recommended for treatment, which is one gram.
Some researchers are developing an online platform to collect chloroquine data on COVID-19 patients. This is something that scientists are doing across Italy and other countries. All in order to make the data widely available as soon as possible.
While the U.S. waits for FDA approval for chloroquine, researchers caution that doctors should only prescribe the drug for their patients under a special program that allows exceptions for experimental drugs under a framework set up by the WHO. In the meantime, we should each do our part by engaging in social distancing, self-quarantining, and self-isolating when appropriate, to stop the spread of COVID-19.