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Demand for hydroxychloroquine soars after Trump says it can treat coronavirus

Published on 25/03/20 at 10:17am
Photo by Gage Skidmore

President Trump has continually touted the effectiveness of anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine in treating coronavirus which has led to a jump in demand for the treatment, despite a lack of evidence of its effectiveness.

Last week, President Trump said it was among the drugs being tested in treating COVID-19, on Saturday tweeting: “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You!” adding that “hopefully they will BOTH be put in use IMMEDIATELY. PEOPLE ARE DYING, MOVE FAST, and GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”

However, the drug has not been successfully trialed for the treatment of coronavirus. The current evidence showing its effectiveness is from a small 36-patient study from French researchers that shows it can kill COVID-19.

Since Trump’s tweets and statements, people have been panic buying the drug sold under the brand name Plaquenil which was originally approved in 1955.

Trump has faced criticism for touting a treatment that is not close to approval, especially in the wake on an Arizona man dying after ingesting chloroquine phosphate. The man had previously used it to feed his koi fish, and he and his wife mixed it with liquid before drinking it.

Speaking to the press, she spoke about why the couple decided to take the treatment: “I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, Hey, isn't that the stuff they're talking about on TV? We were afraid of getting sick. Within 20 minutes, both became extremely ill, at first feeling dizzy and hot. I started vomiting, My husband started developing respiratory problems and wanted to hold my hand.”

Speaking about Trump’s promises, Dr Anthony Fauci said that while it isn’t unreasonable for the President to speak about hope for a potential treatment, they still must prove that the drug is safe. He added that: “Those two things are really not incompatible when you think about it, particularly when you’re in an arena where you don’t have anything that’s proven.”

Due to the potential of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19, India has banned its export with immediate effect.  It has also recommened its use in treating healthcare workers handling suspected coronavirus cases.  

Conor Kavanagh

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