Recently, a group of pharmacists from the University of Huddersfield has warned against the use of anti-malarial drugs or the treatment of COVID-19 around the world. These drugs have been promoted as ‘magic bullets’ for curing the coronavirus infection regardless of the lack of information.
They also add on how the use of anti-malarial drugs without a prescription from a health professional or doctor without any related health condition can cause serious adverse effects on the health of a person.
Initially, a number of small-scale studies and clinical trials had reported a number of benefits of malarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for patients with COVID-19. However, the results were considered preliminary, and later more thorough and large-scale clinical trials did not have similar results.
Therefore, the drugs should be used with care, and only in circumstances, they are required, according to Dr. Hamid Merchant and Dr. Syed Shahzad Hasan.
In a new article that appears in the British Journal of Pharmacy, both the aforementioned scientists along with Chia Siang Kow from the International Medical University in Kuala Lumpur, have commented over the widespread belief that anti-malarial drugs have the ability to manage symptoms of coronavirus infection.
They have explained how the false hype around chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can not only encourage people to resort to self-treatment with these commonly available drugs at home but also cause a shortage on a global scale. Consequently, people who actually need the drug for particular health conditions may not be able to obtain them.
In addition, the use of these malarial drugs without medical supervision can cause serious side effects. While both of the drugs have been tested for safety, like all other medications, they can cause irreversible and potentially fatal effects when taken in higher than recommended doses.
For instance, the US-based clinical trial on hydroxychloroquine reported that the drug did not make any difference in the treatment for COVID-19. Instead, a number of side effects of the drug were noted especially in the groups that took a high dosage of the medicine.
Secondly, the trial examining chloroquine in Brazil was ended after the researchers overlooking the administration of the drug in patients with coronavirus infection reported the development of abnormal heart rhythms and serious cardiovascular issues in the participants.
Therefore, the new article appearing in the British Journal of Pharmacy states “It is the duty of pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to monitor the proper usage of these antimalarial drugs,”
The authors also add that the current scientific evidence does not permit the use of either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19. The drug, in accordance with the authors, can only be given to patients with COVID-19 who have been diagnosed with severe pneumonia under the supervision of a certified medical clinician in a trial or hospital setting.
At large, the use of anti-malarial drugs provides no benefits and therefore should not be taken or recommended by health professionals for treatment as well as prevention of COVID-19.
The authors conclude the article by saying that the only effective ways to prevent the coronavirus infection so far are social distancing and staying in quarantine as well as following all other official guidelines from the World Health Organization.
The warnings presented in the article have also been previously given by other health authorities such as the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, WHO, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, they should be followed strictly as the use of any drugs for COVID-19 can cause side effects and provide no benefits in return.