Hydroxychloroquine — A preventive drug for Coronavirus? Fact Check!
Hydroxychloroquine has been long under discussion since the global COVID-19 pandemic commenced. But recently, various debates and discussions have started afresh as U.S. President Donald Trump voluntarily announced that he is taking the drug to prevent coronavirus infection.
President Trump has long touted hydroxychloroquine as preventive measure for the virus and this has been the latest addition to his weeks-long advocacy for the drug as being the “game changer” for coronavirus infection.
Background and Facts First
Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug which is also commonly used for treatment of various auto-immune diseases like Lupus.
President Trump made headlines on Monday when he announced that he is taking drug for prevention of coronavirus, which he claimed all the frontline workers are also taking. He said, “You look at doctors and nurses. A lot of them are taking it as a preventative.”
Presently various trials are under process in U.S. to determine whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent the infection in frontline health workers when used prophylactically.
However, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has still not approved the drug as a prophylactic measure to prevent coronavirus infection or to be used as a treatment measure in those infected, outside the hospitals.
FDA has further warned of using hydroxychloroquine outside the hospital setting away from doctor’s supervision due to the heart rhythm variations it causes.
Studies currently in motion
There are two major studies under progression in U.S.
In April, Henry Ford Health System in Michigan started an 8-week large scale study to determine the effect of hydroxychloroquine in preventing or impeding the spread of coronavirus infection in health care workers and first responders.
A group of selected 3000 healthcare workers were given unmarked vials of either hydroxychloroquine or placebo, to be taken once a week. The effects of study and preliminary results are expected to be released in August.
Duke Clinical Research Institute is predominantly studying the prevention of infection with use of hydroxychloroquine. The second phase of study, clinical trial started last month with almost 600 healthcare workers included. This study can stretch into fall.
What is the stand of FDA?
FDA granted emergency authorization to doctors in March to use hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug, chloroquine in hospitals for limited number of COVID-19 patients.
Under the Emergency Use Authorization, the drugs can be used in hospitals where there is strict monitoring of heart.
Since then many studies have tested the preventive and treatment efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.
In April end, FDA issued a caution against the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus “outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.”
The most recently issued guidelines of FDA conclude that “hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19.”