In past few months we’ve been hearing this word over and over again — Hydroxychloroquine. The malaria drug being called a potential corona virus by some and a potentially harmful solution by other, with the World Health Organization (WHO) halting it trials at the end of May 2020 so what exactly is hydroxychloroquine and will it help the fight against COVID-19?
Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription drug and a chemical compound modeled after ‘ quinine’ — a once popular natural anti- malaria drug made from tree bark. As the ideal model for synthetic malaria drugs in the early 1900’s, quinine paved the way to chloroquinine used around the World War — II but there was a slight issue, chloroquine had too many side effects to be widely used includingretinal damage and hearing issues so in the year 1955 a less risky version was made. Hydroxychloroquine made from this mix of atoms — the only difference is the addition of a hydroxyl group. According to Dr. Neil Schluger , Chief of Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Columbia University, it is the simple addition of oxygen bound to a hydrogen that makes the drug less risky. He stated — those chemical changes are often made either to improve the drug activity or to decrease its toxicity. Despite the side effects chloroquine is still used. In fact both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are considered versatile drugs — a valuable trade in pharmaceutical industry which might explain why people thought the drug originally designed for malaria could be a treatment of COVID-19. There are actually two main reasons behind this theory has become so popular, at one, hydroxychloroquine works by limiting the body’s immune response and stops it from going into overdrive in the first place. The drug has been proven to be effective in autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, diseases that causes the immune system to inadvertently attack and damage the body and although it hasn’t been proven. Experts say the drug may have some role to play in stopping COVID-19 cases from becoming severe, to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have shown effectiveness against viral infections in fact multiple studies have noted hydroxychloroquine’s ability to mother and reduce HIV replication and notably researchers have found chloroquine can actually suppress corona viruses in cell cultures inhibiting and limiting replication of the human corona virus SARS — 1 which emerged in 2002. Scientists believe this comes down to the anti binding ability of chloroquinespecifically its effect on the binding capabilities of ACE2 receptor on human cells, the entry point for not just SARS virus but also the COVID-19 virus. All of these pushed scientists to study the effects hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have on SARS & COVID and they were somewhat correct. Lab based studies found that both have abilities to fight the COVID-19 corona virus, triggering the FDA to approve emergency use of these two drugs on COVID-19 patients and many others to propose them as a preventive medication but and this is a major one how a drug works against a virus in a lab is not the same as inside a human being.
“Things could be inactivated by a variety of systems in the human body, they could be turnout to be too toxic, they could be turn out not to be able to achieve a high enough level in the blood to be active in human being so the whole hosts of reason why lots of things that works in test tube don’t work in human beings.” -
Crucially studies in lab don’t experience side effects but human do, for hyroxychloroquine side effects can range from headaches, hair loss and nausea to something a lot more dangerous. A large number of drugs can affect the electrical activity in the heart in a way that could make people susceptible to developing potentially very dangerous abnormalities of the heart rhythm that could be fatal. Person to person these side effects vary dramatically so it is difficult to know how the drug would individually impact someone which is why doctor have warned against immediate widespread use and individual use without medical advice first. Because of the FDA emergency approval however thousands of COVID-19 patients have taken hydroxychloroquine which has led to large observational patient studies and some not so promising results bringing us back to Dr. Neil Schluger and his colleagues. As per him — we (Dr. Neil) saw no association between receiving the drug and a favorable outcome or an unfavorable outcome for that.
Dr. Neil’s study wasn’t only one to come to this conclusion. In fact hydroxychloroquine could actually be making things worse. A substantial study published in late May concluded that both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were associated with higher mortality rate among COVID-19 patients and while a few small studies showed improvements when tested with humans. Experts questions the reliability of those study methods. As a result World Health Organization (WHO) halted its sizable randomized trial use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients. Still this probably isn’t the lass we’ll hear of the drug. A large scale study testing the potential preventive effect of the drug is currently ongoing in the UK and organizations and researchers are looking into other treatments such as drug Remdesivir which has show promising potential in early stages but those positive studies have not concluded that this is a cure for the disease so as of late Jul 2020 there is no proven treatment for COVID-19.
Hydroxychloquine is an anti malaria and auto immune prescription drug that has shown effectiveness against viral infections. That versatility placed hydroxychloquine at the forefront of testing for potential COVID-19 treatments. Studies in lab have shown the prescription drug can have a fighting chance against COVID-19 but these results do not necessarily mean the drug is safe or effective on COVID-19 patients. Still, large observational studies began after the FDA allowed emergency use of hydroxychloquine on COVID patients.
“Do not take either Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine unless directed to by a medical doctor.
Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine are not the same as chloroquine aquarium products, which are not FDA approved and not meant for use on humans.”