By: Brian Burns
Doctors and researchers are studying existing drugs as possible treatments for the coronavirus. Public health officials are looking at the anti-malaria drug chloroquine and another medicine called Remdesivir as possible drugs to help patients with COVID-19.
“We’re reviewing drugs that are approved abroad or approved here for other uses,” President Donald Trump said during his now-daily coronavirus briefing Thursday.
Trump said the medications have been around for some time, so any side effects are already well documented. He said researchers are looking at other drugs already approved by the FDA as possible COVID-19 treatments.
“We are looking at everything that comes across our desks” as a potential coronavirus treatment, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said.
He said the president directed his department to “take a closer look” at chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, as treatment for COVID-19.
“We want to do that in the setting of a clinical trial,” he said.
Remdesivir, from drug maker Gilead Sciences, is an antiviral drug that is already being tested in China to treat COVID-19.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “It was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus disease and has shown promise in animal models for treating Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are caused by other coronaviruses.
“One thing that was really important (when I was a cancer doctor) is to provide hope. I have great hope for how we’re going to come out of this situation. What’s also important is not to provide false hope, but to provide hope as a doctor,” the FDA commissioner said.
Research published in the journal Nature said chloroquine “appears to be the drug of choice for large-scale use due to its availability, proven safety record, and a relatively low cost.”
“A recent case report showed that treatment with remdesivir improved the clinical condition of the first patient infected by SARS-CoV-2 in the United States2, and a clinical trial of remdesivir against SARS-CoV-2 was launched in Wuhan on February 4, 2020,” researchers write in Nature.
Public health officials in China, Australia and France are also testing chloroquine, Reuters reports.
“These treatments should be used only in hospitals by critical care specialists,” said University of California, Los Angeles pulmonologist Dr. Russel Buhr, Reuters reports.