Several countries have picked up interest in the use of hydroxychloroquine for the management of the Corona virus Disease. However, the current evidence is inadequate to confirm that chloroquine and its safer derivative hydroxychloroquine can be used to treat COVID 19.
According to an article published in the Lancet Rheumatology, hydroxychloroquine showed invitro activity against a similar pathogen SARS-COV-2 in 2005, however it did not reduce the viral load in trials done among mice and interest in it waned. Interest was renewed when work done in China and France appeared to show promising results with regard to treatment of COVID 19 patients.
However, it has been reported that the sample of patients selected were few and furthermore they had a mild form of the disease. Although in the US the FDA has allowed its use under the off-label, compassionate use for treating COVID-19, and WHO added the drug to its large global SOLIDARITY trial to test a variety of potential treatments, existing evidence is still inadequate.
Although chloroquine has been used to treat malaria it has not been used to treat Coronavirus disease. Before a drug is recommended to treat a particular condition, it is important to understand recommended dosages, duration of treatment and side effects. It is also important to note that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can have serious side effects if not carefully controlled and if used in high doses.
Furthermore, these side effects may be worse for patients with preexisting conditions. Some of these effects include Arrhythmias and visual problems. Considering the controversy, surrounding its use, members of the public are advised not to engage in self-medication with hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine for the treatment of COVID 19. Always follow the advice of your health provider.
For more on trials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 see Int J Antimicrob Agents 2020; published online March 20; https://doi.org/10.1016/ j. ijantimicag.2020.105949 and BioScience Trends 2020; 14: 72–73
By Elizabeth Ekirapa Kiracho
Program Director MAKSPH FETP
Department of Health Policy Planning and Management