Coronavirus (COVID-19): Warnings on Potential Treatments

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Warnings on Potential Treatments

You may have heard that a drug called chloroquine (chloroquine phosphate) or a related drug, hydroxychloroquine, might treat coronavirus (COVID-19). This is based on small, preliminary reports on their use. To date, neither form of chloroquine has been approved by drug regulatory authorities for the treatment of COVID-19 (with the exception of Poland where chloroquine phosphate is approved for this use). There are risks associated with these medications and they should not be taken or obtained without a prescription.

We will be updating this post as we learn more.

Laboratory studies indicate chloroquine may be effective in reducing the replication of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). China has added chloroquine as an option to treat patients in their Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Diagnosis and Treatment Plan. Note: The original source is written in Chinese. Here is an unofficial english translated version.

A small study in France involved giving a small number of COVID-19 patients 200 mg of hydroxychloroquine three times daily. It found that the medication reduced the percentage of patients shedding the virus within six days as compared to patients not given the medication. Adding azithromycin to the treatment regimen appeared to further reduce viral shedding. However, the effect of these treatments on patient outcomes, particularly survival, has not yet been reported. (Be aware that the combination of azithromycin and chloroquine phosphate may increase your risk of an irregular heartbeat, which can be life-threatening.)

The U.S. FDA is in early stages of evaluating if chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are safe and effective to treat COVID-19. A study of hydroxychloroquine is also planned in Australia.

The World Health Organization has launched a multi-country initiative to test medicines already on the market to find ones that best treat COVID-19. According to reporting in Stat News, in addition to chloroquine, three other drugs will be assessed: “the antiviral drug remdesivir; a combination of two HIV drugs, lopinavir