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Hydroxychloroquine And Coronavirus: How Is It Linked?

Hydroxychloroquine is one of the most common terms discussed right now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is making news, being linked to the prominent names of US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where the former promoted the use of this drug as a cure for the coronavirus.

On 26 March, hydroxychloroquine exports were banned in India allegedly leading the POTUS and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, among other state leaders reached out to the Indian authorities in an attempt to have the ban lifted.

Under the threat of 'retaliation', the restrictions were lifted by the Indian government last week, allowing the large scale yet demand-oriented production of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a treatment drug for Covid-19 [1].

COVID-19: Hydroxychloroquine May Cause Low Blood Sugar & Irregular Heartbeat

Hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, are currently under study as possible treatments for COVID-19.


What Is Hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription drug which comes in the form of oral tablets and can be used as part of combination therapy [2]. Commonly used in the prevention and treatment of malaria, the drug is also used to treat lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis [3].

Being an antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine treats malaria by killing the parasites that cause the disease [4]. It is believed that the drug affects the working of your immune system to prevent and treat the conditions [5].

Hydroxychloroquine comes as a tablet to take by mouth and is occasionally used in the treatment of porphyria cutanea tarda a type of porphyria or blood disorder that affects the skin [6].

Hydroxychloroquine tablet has certain side effects such as headache, dizziness, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting [7]. Mild side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. Serious side effects include blurred vision, heart failure, hearing loss, hives, mild or severe bronchospasm, sore throat, severe hypoglycaemia, unusual bleeding or bruising, muscle weakness, hair loss, mood changes and mental health effects, including suicidal thoughts [8].

In addition to that, hydroxychloroquine may interact with other medications or vitamins and can become harmful or prevent the drug from working well.


What Is Chloroquine?

Chloroquine phosphate is an antimalarial and amebicide drug that is used in the treatment and prevention of malaria and amebiasis, an infection of the intestines with a parasite called Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica) [9].

Chloroquine phosphate is used occasionally to decrease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, like hydroxychloroquine [10]. In addition to that, this drug is also used in the treatment of scleroderma, pemphigus, lichen planus and polymyositis [11].

The side effects of chloroquine include headache, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, upset stomach,

skin rash or itching, hair loss and mood changes [12]. Severe symptoms of the drug include drowsiness, vomiting, irregular heartbeats, convulsions, difficulty breathing, blurred vision, ringing in the ears and muscle weakness [13].


Hydroxychloroquine And Chloroquine: Can It Cure Covid-19?

According to some reports, it is believed that hydroxychloroquine tablets can work as a prophylactic (medicine used to prevent disease) for the health workers working on the frontlines and first responders of the Covid-19 infection [14].

However, if these can be the cure to the coronavirus disease is still unclear as there is no scientific proof or medical evidence which shows that hydroxychloroquine can cure Coronavirus [15].

"In terms of science, I don't think we can definitively say it works. The data are really just at best suggestive. There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there's no effect," said Dr Anthony Fauci, The White House top Coronavirus advisor [16].

"The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus is spreading rapidly, and scientists are endeavouring to discover drugs for its efficacious treatment in China. Chloroquine phosphate, an old drug for the treatment of malaria, is shown to have apparent efficacy and acceptable safety against COVID-19 associated pneumonia in multi-centre clinical trials conducted in China," stated research published in Bioscience Trends [17].


Mixed Responses On The Effectiveness Of The Drug

Reports from doctors who have been treating coronavirus patients with chloroquine asserted that there is no clear evidence the anti-malarial drug is effective against the pathogen, raising concern and doubts regarding the current mass production of the drug [18][19].

The doctors also stated that there has been a slight promise for the antiretroviral drug that is used in the treatment of HIV for patients suffering from coronavirus disease.


On A Final Note…

Although hopeful, scientists have warned that there is no clinical evidence that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is an effective COVID-19 treatment as the clinical trials have only recently begun. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are not safe for everyone and are not recommended to people suffering from heart arrhythmia, or those with kidney or liver issues.