As countries around the world go on lockdown, the race is on to find a cure for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Two drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, are purported to show promise against the virus, but do they really work?
While a cure is yet to be discovered, a number of treatments have shown promise in the battle against COVID-19 thus begging the question, are they truly capable of eradicating the SARS-CoV-2, the root cause of the pandemic?
Start of a pandemic
The COVID-19 that was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 has now spread to every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica, and has become a full blown pandemic.
Several countries around the world are on lockdown hoping to curb the spread of the virus.
Since discovering of the new virus, the world’s leading health experts have been racing to develop a cure and although several treatments have been proposed, no vaccine has been made as of yet.
Because it takes a considerable amount of time before vaccines can be made, experts agree that finding and developing a cure for the COVID-19 is still months away – if not more – from happening.
Scientists are still in the process of understanding the genetic makeup of the virus, how it infects cells, and how best to fight it.
Currently, clinical management for those afflicted with the COVID-19 primarily revolves around the prevention of the infection, control measures, and supportive care.
Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine
In the midst of all of this, drugs used for the treatment of other diseases have shown promise in treating COVID-19, including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are oral prescription drugs used to treat malaria and other inflammatory conditions.
The U.S. has already started procuring chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in large doses and President Donald Trump himself has lauded the two drugs as “game-changers.”
Chloroquine has been used for the treatment of malaria for over 70 years. It is said that the drug is able to prevent the virus from binding to human cells thus preventing proliferation while also stimulating the immune system.
A study from Guangdong, China claims that the drug can potentially improve the success rate of COVID-19 treatments and shorten the length of hospital stay for patients.
Hydroxychloroquine, a less toxic derivative of chloroquine, is suggested to also have inhibiting effects on the virus.
According to Trump, what makes these drugs ideal is the fact that they have been around for decades and poses fewer risks than a newly-developed drug.
Not so fast, warn experts
But the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine is not without risks. Experts warn against self-medicating with the drugs until better studies are conducted.
Just last week, an Arizona couple attempted to self-medicate with a fish tank cleaning additive that contained a non-pharmaceutical form of chloroquine. The couple felt dizzy and started vomiting. Both were hospitalized but the chemical proved fatal to the husband. The wife is still under intensive monitoring.
Furthermore, the use of chloroquine is associated with several side-effects including headaches, diarrhea, muscle problems, rashes and itching.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reiterated that the effects of chloroquine on COVID-19 are still “anecdotal” and that only well-run trials can prove its effectiveness.
Other drugs that can help combat COVID-19
Dr. Hashem Sadek and his team at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Houston conducted computer-modeling studies on drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The results of their studies show that anti-viral drugs such as Darunavir, Saquinavir and Nelfinavir show promise in treating the COVID-19 along with other types of drugs like the ACE-inhibitor Moexipril, Metamizole which is used as a painkiller, Ataquavone (anti-malarial drug), the antihistamine Bepotastine and the chemotherapy drugs Daunorubicin and Mitoxantrone.
Rosuvastatin, which is used for lowering cholesterol and used by millions of people worldwide, has also shown promise according to Sadek. However, the results of the study are considered theoretical as they are completely computer-based.
Studies also revealed positive outcomes with the use of the antibiotic Azithromycin coupled with hydroxychloroquine.