Not long after Australian researchers reported the potential of the anti-malaria drug chloroquine for treating coronavirus, United States President Donald Trump said Thursday that American officials are looking into it for the same purpose.
“Some people are looking at chloroquine — or some people would add ‘hydroxy’ — hydroxychloroquine,” Trump said during a Thursday press briefing, per Raw Story. “Chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine.”
The president noted that it’s a common drug for treating malaria and is also used in a different form for “serious arthritis.”
“But it is known as a malaria drug and it’s been around for a long time and it’s very powerful.”
Trump also highlighted that the drug has been around for years and is understood to be safe. As reported by The Hill, the president claimed that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going to approve the drug for use against COVID-19 and he intends to ensure the drug is made available “almost immediately.”
As reported by ABC News, chloroquine has been used for combating malaria since 1944 and is given as both a pre-infection preventative drug as well as a post-infection treatment. Although a parasite causes malaria, studies have reportedly shown that chloroquine is nevertheless effective against COVID-19 — a virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) — when administered both before and after infection.
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist and internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, pointed to the effectiveness of chloroquine in treating SARS — which is in the same family of coronaviruses as COVID-19 — when used in vitro with primate cells.
“The theory of the experiment with primate cells was that chloroquine could be for preventing viral infection or as a treatment for viral infection after it had occurred. In vitro in these primate cells, there was evidence that viral particles were significantly reduced when chloroquine was used.”
In China, research suggests that chloroquine may decrease the time that patients with COVID-19-associated pneumonia spend in the hospital. As of now, there are over 20 clinical trials of the drug in China and more scheduled in the United States, England, Thailand, and South Korea.
Per Axios, a senior Health and Human Services official and another source with direct knowledge of the situation claimed that the pharmaceutical company Bayer is planning to donate a large amount of chloroquine to the United States. As of now, remdesivir is also in clinical trials to treat COVID-19, but new data suggests that chloroquine may be just as effective.