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FDA Approves Emergency Use of Anti-Malarial Drugs to Treat People Infected with COVID-19

03-30-2020
Plaquenil

The US government is giving reserved approval to two new weapons in the war against the COVID-19 virus, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 2,500 in the US and a total of 35,300 people around the world. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cut the red tape to give limited emergency-use approval to use the oral anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus. 

In a statement released Sunday night, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced it had received 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine and one million doses of chloroquine donated to a national stockpile of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies from the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

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The FDA has authorized the drugs "to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with the coronavirus, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible."

Clinical trials are still being planned by the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, according to ABC News

There have been questions about the effectiveness of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine since they haven't gone through official scientific studies. And one shocking case out of Arizona may serve as a warning after an older couple consumed some chloroquine phosphate - an additive used to clean fish tanks. The husband died and his wife was left in critical condition.

But France has just given its official approval to use the drug chloroquine to combat coronavirus, so the US isn't the only country moving ahead with the experimental treatment.  

Meanwhile, the CEO of the drug company Novartis says hydroxychloroquine is one of the best drugs available to treat the COVID-19 virus.

"Pre-clinical studies in animals, as well as the first data from clinical studies, show that hydroxychloroquine kills the coronavirus," Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper on Sunday.

Hydroxychloroquine, which is also produced by several drug companies, including Novartis's Sandoz division, is also used in the treatment of arthritis and lupus. 

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"We are working with Swiss hospitals on possible treatment protocols for the clinical use of this drug (against COVID-19), but it is too early to say anything definitive," added Narasimhan.

The drug company had previously promised to give away 130 million individual doses of the drug.  

"Novartis will work with stakeholders including the World Health Organization to determine the best distribution of the medicine to ensure broad access to patients most in need of this medicine globally," the company said in a statement on March 20.

Research continues on other Novartis drugs as other possible remedies for the coronavirus.  These include the multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya and the cancer drug Jakavi.

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