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Self‑Medicating With Chloroquine to Treat or Prevent Covid19 Can Be Fatal

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Mar 24, 2020

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Image Credit: Alamy

With coronavirus dominating news-cycles and living room discussions worldwide, panic is running high globally. Touted as the cure for Covid19, chloroquine is the latest entrant to the rumors and myths circulating in social media of late. Having shot to fame after U.S. President Donald Trump and Elon Musk tweeted about it last week, the drug may have some solutions to offer to this global crisis, but its use without medical supervision can be fatal.

What is chloroquine?

Chloroquine is a drug currently used in the treatment of malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Is chloroquine available in India?

Yes.

Can chloroquine prevent or cure Covid19?

We don’t know yet. While Whatsapp forwards may have declared chloroquine as the miracle drug to deliver us from this pandemic, the effectiveness of the drug in coronavirus patients has not been proven conclusively. The Lancet Global Health published initial findings that the drug shows antiviral activity against coronaviruses, especially the new virus; there is also limited, anecdotal evidence it can prevent the infection at approved doses and inhibit the spread of Covid19. However, clinical trials to comprehensively understand chloroquine’s therapeutic and prophylactic properties are still underway, The Indian Express reported.

“… so far there has not been a single adequately powered randomized study on chloroquine in patients infected by the new coronavirus. There are trials underway but not one has been completed or published in any peer-reviewed journal,” Dr. Deepak Natarajan, a cardiologist based in New Delhi, writes for The Wire.


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Should I stock up on chloroquine just in case?

No. First, several medical professionals have countered Trump’s tweet by breaking down the fatal risk factor involved in using chloroquine without consulting a doctor: the drug affects the heart, potentially leading to arrhythmias and sudden death. There is a very fine line between the drug being effective, and the drug proving fatal, making it all the more precarious.

“It’s incredibly dangerous and foolish for people to be [self-administering chloroquine]. This is not going to be a magic pill for us to get us through this,” Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, told The New York Times. In fact, ingesting a fish tank cleaning additive made with chloroquine phosphate, the same active ingredient as the medication contains, led to the death of a man in the U.S. while his wife is hospitalized in critical care. Dr. Brooks added that the Arizona couple’s attempt to self-medicate should serve as a cautionary tale.

In addition, stocking up of the drug by panic-stricken masses can severely jeopardize the health of patients of malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, who have actually been prescribed the drug. These patients are at a much higher risk of contracting Covid19, as they are immunocompromised, and therefore, have the greatest need for chloroquine.

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an associate editor with The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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