Coronavirus treatment: Experts say side effect of chloroquine are too risky


Doctors and scientists are pushing back against President Donald Trump's claims of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin combo as potential antidotes for COVID-19, noting the two malaria drugs he's touted are unproven against coronavirus and carry their own risks of side effects.




Trump has cited a small study in France as evidence the federal government should aggressively pursue the malaria drugs combined with antibiotics.

President Donald J. Trump and Dr. Anthony "Tony" Fauci, Director USA National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (background).


Others aren't as certain about the prospects of a quick fix from chloroquine or the related drug, hydroxyxhloroquine.

Chloroquine was developed in the 1930s. In addition to treating malaria, both drugs are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned untested drugs can provide false hope and cause a shortage of proven treatments needed for other diseases.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted information on malaria drugs combined with antibiotics remains "anecdotal" and needs to be evaluated in a clinical study. 

According to the USA Today, Raymond Woosley, a medical doctor and pharmacologist who tracks drug safety through his Food and Drug Administration-funded nonprofit since two decades ago, has advised doctors through his blog site, that chloroquine and its related drug hydroxychloroquine can cause subtle heart changes and increase a person's risk of developing arrhythmia (Irregular heart rhythm) causing black out or even death.

He urged doctors to be aware of the risk and use an electrocardiogram to screen patients for signs that might reveal a person's risk of heart trouble. 

"We definitely don’t want to harm people by using drugs that have known side effects in ways that we know are dangerous," Woosley said. 

Arrhythmia is one of several known but rare adverse side effects of chloroquine. Far more common but not life threatening side effects of the drug include: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild dizziness
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Clumsiness
  • Mild headache
  • Nausea or stomach cramps


More severe and life threatening side effects of chloroquine include: 

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Change Hair loss
  • Weight loss
  • Fever or sore throat
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Dark colored urine
  • Change of skin color
  • Signs of severe allergic reaction including hives, itching, and breathing difficulties
  • A host of neurological, behavioural and mood changes


USA Today reports some patients (in the United States) are bypassing doctors and using malaria drugs on their own as a preemptive strike against COVID-19 (coronavirus disease), which has no vaccine or proven therapy. 

But Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director in Phoenix, Arizona, advises that such "self-medicating is not the way to go." 


Related: Chloroquine poisoning reported in Nigeria following Trump’s “game changer” drugs claim.  



Published: March 28, 2020

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