The U.S. Drug Regulatory Authority (FDA) has authorized the limited emergency use of two anti-malaria drugs, which President Donald Trump has promoted, to treat the coronavirus.
In a statement released Sunday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services detailed recent donations of medicine to a national stockpile, including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, both investigated as potential treatments for covid-19.
The FDA statement says that firms Sandoz, Novartis and Bayer donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate “for possible use in treating hospitalized patients with covid-19 or for use in clinical trials.”RELATED
The document says the FDA allowed “hospitalized adolescent and adult patients with covid-19 to be distributed and prescribed by physicians, appropriately, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible.”
Trump said last week that two drugs could be a “gift from God,” although scientists warned against the dangers of exaggerating unproven treatments.
Several researchers including Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert, have asked the public to be cautious until clinical trials validate more detailed studies.
Chloroquine has been used for years against malaria. This medicine, available and cheap, is also a powerful antiviral because it blocks the entry of the virus into the cell, according to Ignacio López Goñi, professor of microbiology at the University of Navarra, in Spain.
For this reason, there are several research groups interested in seeing if it is effective in reducing viral load in patients with covid-19. The World Health Organization, in fact, is conducting an investigation into chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
Two United States medical agencies, the National Institutes of Health and the Advanced Biomedical Research and Development Authority, are working on clinical trials.
It is important that a doctor authorizes its use. Last week a couple from Phoenix, Arizona fell ill half an hour after taking chloroquine phosphate. The man died upon arrival at the hospital, while the woman was able to vomit much of the product.
“We understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat the virus, but self-medication is not the way,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, where the couple entered.
The FDA itself warned a couple of days ago about the risks of taking chloroquine in its presentation to cure aquarium fish diseases.
Some in the scientific community fear that Trump’s endorsement of these drugs could create shortages for patients who need them to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, diseases for which they are approved.
Last week, after Trump’s tweet about hydroxychloroquine, a demand for the drug skyrocketed in Mexico, where it is sold for a much lower price than in the United States, putting at risk the health of chronic patients who do need it as permanent treatment.
So far in the United States, 143,025 coronavirus cases and a total of 2,514 deaths have been recorded.
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