Coronavirus and chloroquine: Has the U.S. approved the use of malaria medication in Covid-19 therapy?
US President Donald Trump has suggested approval has been given for the use of chloroquine, which is used to treat malaria, to treat the new coronavirus in the US.
Chloroquine is one of the oldest and most effective drugs against malaria.
Is US President Trump right? What is known about its effects?
Chloroquine has been used for decades. Its use in Africa is no longer recommended because of the resistance malaria parasites generate to this drug.
Some countries have introduced some regulations to reduce the use of this drug, but it is still very popular in some countries where the private sector is active in the pharmaceutical market and its sale is widespread.
This is especially true of Nigeria. After Trump’s remarks, demand for chloroquine in pharmacies in Nigeria was massively increasing, prompting drug shortages.
Chloroquine is not approved for coronavirus treatment
During their daily meeting, Trump claimed that chloroquine had received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its use in the treatment of coronavirus. The name of the FDA, the unit responsible for licensing drugs in the United States.
“We will make it possible for this drug to be used immediately,” Trump said. The FDA has done very well. It went through the approval process, it was approved,” he said.
But the FDA has made it clear that it has not approved Covid-19 for use in the treatment of patients:
“There are no FDA-approved treatments or drugs for the prevention or treatment of patients of Covid-19.”
But the FDA did not mention the research being conducted on whether chloroquine is effective in treating Covid-19, saying it was directive by Trump to create wide-ranging clinical trials to study the drug.
In another daily briefing he later held, Trump said chloroquine had been approved ‘for humanitarian reasons to be given to the patient.’
The practice means the government will give approval for a drug to be administered to a life-threatening person who does not yet have a license.
Since the drug is officially registered, doctors can use it in these cases.
What’s the situation globally?
It’s no surprise that chloroquine is being used to help treat coronavirus patients.
It is widely known, inexpensive and easy to manufacture the drug. It was used to lower fever and remove inflammation in malaria patients.
BBC Health Correspondent James Gallagher said: “In laboratory studies, it appears that chloroquine blocks the coronavirus. There are some anecdotes that doctors say are data that prove to help treatment,” he says.
But the clinical trials, which are very important to show how this drug works in existing patients, have not been completed. Experiments are still ongoing in China, the US, the UK, and Spain.
The World Health Organization said there was no clear evidence yet of the effect of chloroquine but that it was part of the trials.
“We need to do clinical trials to understand what therapies work to treat this widespread infection, to get full evidence,” says Professor Trudie Lang, director of the Global Health Network at Oxford University.
Interest in the drug has also increased in the virtual world.
Searches for chloroquine have risen massively in the past week, according to Google Trends data. Elon Musk has also stirred social media with tweets he has posted about some research.
‘Panic shopping’ in Nigeria
The coronavirus pandemic is in the language of almost everyone in Nigeria, in churches, mosques, schools, according to Daniel Semeniworima of the BBC Pidgin Service reporting from Lagos.
Many people in Nigeria still keep chloroquine in their homes for the purpose of using it in malaria treatments despite it being banned in 2005.
A study conducted in China in February on the use of chloroquine in the treatment of coronavirus also had huge repercussions in Lagos. People started to stock up, too.
After Trump mentioned chloroquine, demand for chloroquine increased in stores and pharmacies, and the drug soon ran out of stock.
But the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control warned the public to stop taking chloroquine, and shared this message on Twitter: “World Health Organisation has not approved the use of chloroquine for #COVID19.”
Daniel Semeniworima says people make decisions without knowledge for their safety, but this also leads to serious health problems.
Recently, news of poisoning from the use of excessive chloroquine began to come from Lagos.