The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning on Friday to consumers over self medication of malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and said that such medicines should not be taken outside of a hospital setting or a formal clinical trial setting following reports of deaths and poisoning from the consumption of the drugs.
Those patients who are taking drugs for approved causes and health conditions such as malaria or for the treatment of autoimmune conditions like lupus, should continue to take the medicines according to prescribed dosages, the FDA said.
The FDA had received confirmed reports about “serious heart rhythm problems” in patients infected by coronavirus and who had been treated with the malaria drugs, often in combination with antibiotic azithromycin, commonly known as a Z-Pak, the FDA also said. the agency also issued warnings to physicians against prescribing the drug for the treatment of coronavirus patients outside of hospital settings.
“Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can cause abnormal heart rhythms such as QT interval prolongation and a dangerously rapid heart rate called ventricular tachycardia,” the agency wrote in the notice. “We will continue to investigate risks associated with the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19 and communicate publicly when we have more information.”
Safety concerns forced researchers to terminate a study that was testing chloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19, said a new study that was released on Friday by the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers cited a “primary outcome” of death. Almost two dozen patients died and some developed irregular heart rates after they were administered doses of the drug on a regular basis.
The warning from the FDA was issued after the study results were shared by JAMA with the scientific community but before they were released for the public on Friday.
Covid-19 so far does not have any proven treatment even as the virus that originated in China and according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, it has infected more than 2.7 million people worldwide and killed at least 191,231 as of Friday morning. The health officials in the US have said that it will not be before at least 12 to 18 months that a vaccine can be prepared for the disease which has increased the importance for finding an effective drug for the disease.
There are serious side effects, including muscle weakness and heart arrhythmia, of the consumption of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
The FDA had approved chloroquine in 1949 to treat malaria. Doctors often use its derivative, hydroxychloroquine, for treating of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Those drugs first shot into fame in recent times amid the coronaviorus pandemic after the US president Donald Trump touted them as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the coronavirus.
Both drugs are in clinical trials examining their effectiveness in treating the Covid-19, but neither are proven treatments.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)