Mar 20, 2020 - Health

Chloroquine, an old anti-malarial drug, takes the coronavirus spotlight

A worker checks the production of chloroquine in China. Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The Trump administration is taking a very public interest in chloroquine, an old, cheap anti-malarial drug, as a potential coronavirus treatment, although it's way too soon to put much stock in its effectiveness.

What they're saying: The Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether the drug can reduce the duration of patients' symptoms in mild to moderate cases, or to reduce "viral shedding," which helps prevent disease spread.

As I reported earlier this week, pharma company Bayer is donating a large quantity of its version of the drug, Resochin, to the U.S. government. Bayer confirmed the donation of 3 million tablets yesterday.

  • "Currently not approved for use in the United States, Bayer is working with appropriate agencies on an Emergency Use Authorization for the drug's use in the U.S.," the company said in a statement.

Yes, but: Awareness of the drug's potential has bolstered demand. Chloroquine and its variant hydroxychloroquine have gone into shortage, Business Insider reports.

  • The drug is also used to treat arthritis or lupus, and the shortages could threaten the health of patients who rely on it.

My thought bubble: Remember that this is an unproven treatment; there's absolutely no guarantee that it will help treat coronavirus.

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