What Is Hydroxychloroquine Anyway?

Hydroxychloronique. Photo: John Locher/AP/Shutterstock

青青青国产在观免费2018For the past two months, Donald Trump has repeatedly a malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game changer” in the fight against coronavirus — much to the distress of health officials. While clinical trials into the drug are underway around the world, hydroxychloroquine has not been proven to be an effective coronavirus treatment; in response to Trump’s claims otherwise, the Food and Drug Administration, which has not approved it for coronavirus patients, has had to multiple warnings against its unsupervised use. On Monday, the president sent doctors and experts into yet another tailspin: He said that he, personally, has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic.

青青青国产在观免费2018“I have been taking it for about a week and a half now and I’m still here, I’m still here,” Trump at a meeting of restaurant executives. “I’ve heard a lot of good stories [about hydroxychloroquine] and if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right I’m not going to get hurt by it.”

青青青国产在观免费2018What are the implications of taking this drug? Are any of the clinical studies into its use for coronavirus promising? Here’s what we know about hydroxychloroquine:

What is hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription medicine that the FDA has approved for the treatment of malaria, as well as autoimmune diseases including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It has not been approved for treating or preventing COVID-19. It is also known under the brand name Plaquenil.

So … what exactly is its effect on coronavirus?

青青青国产在观免费2018While some anecdotal evidence has shown that hydroxychloroquine — and chloroquine, a similar anti-malarial drug — could be effective in warding off COVID-19, there is little conclusive evidence so far. According to the , clinical trials have shown that the drug is not an effective treatment for infected patients, and  into its use as a prophylactic are still underway. Last month, the FDA that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine “have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19,” and warned against their use outside of controlled settings.

But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t prove to be promising. Per the Times, one reason medical experts have considered the drug’s use for coronavirus treatment is that the drug suppresses the immune system, which has been shown to go into overdrive in serious cases of COVID-19. Additionally, a published in February found that chloroquine — again, a drug similar to hydroxychloroquine was effective at blocking the coronavirus from invading healthy cells and turning them into virus-producing factories. However, as the Times notes, “drugs that conquer viruses in test tubes or petri dishes do not always work in the human body, and studies of hydroxychloroquine  to prevent or treat influenza and other viral illnesses.”

Is it safe to take?

If used correctly, the drug is relatively safe for patients who do not have underlying health issues. However, the FDA has against the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus outside of a hospital or clinical-trial setting, as the drug could cause serious heart problems. Additionally, as the Times青青青国产在观免费2018 notes, severely ill coronavirus patients often suffer organ damage, so taking hydroxychloroquine could be dangerous for those patients. But again, doctors and experts simply do not yet understand the full scope of the drug’s relationship to coronavirus.

At the very least, the fervor with which Trump has pushed the drug is dangerous. In late March, a man in Arizona drank fish-tank cleaner containing chloroquine — the similar malaria drug Trump’s also spoken about in an attempt to preventively self-medicate against the coronavirus, and died. “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure,” the man’s wife told . Additionally, as demand for the drug has risen amid Trump’s promotion, some pharmacies and hospitals have suffered shortages of the drug, which has negatively impacted those who rely on hydroxychloroquine. One such woman, a 40-year-old woman with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, told last month that she has been rationing her pills ever since her pharmacist told her the medicine she has relied on for over a decade is back-ordered.

“When I have that medicine, I can live life normally and don’t have to think about it,” she told the outlet. “Now I have to stop and think before I even pick up my toothbrush to brush my teeth.”

What has Trump said about it?

In mid-March, not long after conservative media and “philosophers” , Trump started touting hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game changer” in the fight against coronavirus. Around this time, he falsely  that hydroxychloroquine had shown “very, very encouraging early results” (no clinical studies had shown this), and that the FDA had “gone through the approval process” (to this day, the FDA has not approved the drug to treat coronavirus patients). In some Trump promoted taking the drug in combination with azithromycin, an antibiotic that many of us know as a Z-Pack (or Z-Pak). While a French study published in late March suggested that this combination of drugs could be effective at fighting the coronavirus, it has since been .

On Monday, during a meeting with restaurant executives, Trump shocked reporters when he said that he’d started taking hydroxychloroquine a little over a week ago, after consulting the White House doctor. However, he did not explicitly say whether or not the physician recommended that he take the drug as a preventative. (In recent weeks, two White House staffers have tested positive for the virus: one of the Trump’s valets and Mike Pence’s spokeswoman.) Trump also claimed that “many, many” front-line workers are taking hydroxychloroquine. While there have been a of where health-care workers were prescribed the drug as a coronavirus preventative, their use has been supervised — it’s the possibility of unsupervised use that the FDA has cautioned most strongly against.

Despite warnings from the FDA and the public-health community at large, Trump’s fixation on the drug has been unwavering. In fact, last week, Richard Bright, a federal agency 青青青国产在观免费2018head who led the government’s efforts to develop a , that he was discharged after urging that hydroxychloroquine be vetted as a coronavirus treatment. The administration, Bright testified, wanted to bypass some parts of this standard process.

What has Trump’s doctor said?

青青青国产在观免费2018Hours after Trump’s shocking declaration, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley , saying that Trump is “in good health and remains symptom-free.” Conley continues: “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.” However, the letter reads as deliberately vague, and sheds no light on whether Trump is actually taking hydroxychloroquine.

What Is Hydroxychloroquine Anyway?