US president Donald Trump with members of his coronavirus task force including L-R VP Mike Pence, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ambassador Debbie Birx and US Surgeon General Jerome Adams
On Thursday, March 19, during the White House press briefing on coronavirus Covid-19 in the United States, US president Donald Trump, surprised some observers in the medical sciences world when he revealed the US Food and Drugs Administration had approved the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of the coronavirus in patients.
This wasn’t totally accurate, but the FDA had indeed approved coronavirus patient trials of the drugs, which are best known for the treatment of malaria and arthritis.
The decision came after early studies showed that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are effective in inhibiting the disease when tested in vitro with primate cells.
During the conference FDA commissioner, Dr Stephen Hahn, said the regulator is preparing to test the drug in a clinical trial with coronavirus patients. There are already clinical trial in China and more scheduled to start in several other countries.
SARS and Covid-19 virus infect humans when protein spikes on its surface bind to special receptors on the surface of human cells.
Chloroquine worked against SARS by interfering with those receptors, thereby reducing the virus’s ability to bind to cells.
Researchers believe there is a chance chloroquine can do the same against Covid-19.
However, Dr Hahn pointed out some concerns about the drug as a possible treatment for the virus.
“We may have the right drug, but it might not be in the appropriate dosage form right now, and it might do more harm than good”, he warned.
But the cat was out of the proverbial bag. Earlier this week, Google Trends identified “chloroquine” as the second most searched coronavirus-related term in the US.
Mentions of chloroquine had also been trending on Twitter in Nigeria and Ghana. Why?
Africa accounts for 92% of malaria cases in the world, and chloroquine-based drugs are very familiar medications on the continent.
As soon as rumors started circulating of a possible Covid-19 “cure” with chloroquine it went viral on Nigerian social media and many Nigerians have reportedly started to stock the drug.
And after Trump’s comments it has led to a rapid increase in the price of the drug and pharmacies are running out of stock.
Culled from Quartz Africa