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COVID-19 Chloroquine Craze - Here is what we know

At the beginning of April, the FDA approved Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

President Trump has repeatedly endorsed the use of Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 saying:

What do you have to lose?"

"It can help them, but it's not going to hurt them. That's the beauty of it. You see? It can help them, but it's not going to hurt them. What do you have to lose? OK."

"It doesn't kill people,"

Here are some quotes from the CDC addressing these claims:

"Chloroquine phosphate, when used without a prescription and supervision of a healthcare provider, can cause serious health consequences, including death”

"Currently, these medications are being studied and evaluated as treatment for COVID-19; however, their efficacy to either prevent or treat this infection are unknown."

(Quotes are up to date as of April 5th, 2020)

Anecdotal Evidence has indicated that the drugs helped COVID-19 patients, though there have not been any peer-reviewed or clinical data confirming it. On the other hand, the Trump administration’s advocation for chloroquine phosphate-based drugs has led to a misinformation crisis. A man in Arizona died after self-medicating with fish-tank cleaner that contained chloroquine phosphate. His wife, who took a lower dosage of the fish-tank cleaner also ended up in the hospital and revealed to CNN during an interview that they were influenced by Trump’s COVID-19 press briefings. There have even been cases in Nigeria of chloroquine poisoning as a result of Trump’s endorsement. (Busari and Adebayo, 2020)

It is imperative that we communicate scientifically sound, non-politically driven information. Here are the main facts that we have gathered from recently published papers.

· Heart and Neurological issues are common side-effects and can be detrimental for those with underlying conditions

· In vitro data suggest that chloroquine inhibits SARS Cov-2 (another strain of coronavirus) replication.

· Chloroquine has shown in vitro activity against many different viruses, but no benefit in animal models.

· Chloroquine has been proposed several times for the treatment of acute viral diseases in humans without success.

· The outcomes of some current clinical trials of chloroquine in China have been announced, without access to the data.

· Immune system response is still unpredictable

· Peer review of the results and an independent assessment of the potential benefit for patients are essential.

There is a lack of substantial evidence confirming or denying whether chloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19. Even though world is in desperate need of an effective treatment for the pandemic, we must wait until there is strong, clinical evidence. Rushing into strong endorsements to any drug right now may do more harm than good. It is easy for us to be influenced during these times of fear and uncertainty by politically-driven speeches or articles written to generate clicks. We have to place our trust in our health professionals and the scientific process to guide our response to the COVID019 pandemic.

Franck Touret, Xavier de Lamballerie, Of chloroquine and COVID-19, Antiviral Research, Volume 177, 2020, 104762, ISSN 0166-3542,

Yao X, Ye F, Zhang M, et al. In vitro antiviral activity and projection of optimized dosing design of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARSCoV-2). Clin Infect Dis 2020. doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa237

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