US FDA Says Using Hydroxychloroquine Drug To Treat COVID-19 Could Be Fatal

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised against taking hydroxychloroquine drug (HCQ), promoted by President Trump as a potential medicine for COVID-19, outside of a hospital or by themselves, citing “serious and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems”.

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Donald Trump has regularly asserted that the HCQ drug is a viable treatment for COVID-19 and could be a “game-changer”, apparently based on anecdotal proof. No conclusive tests have been completed to determine its effectiveness.

FDA Commissioner Dr Stephen M Hahn said in a statement: “We understand that healthcare professionals are looking for every possible treatment option and we want to guarantee we’re providing them with the appropriate information needed for them to make the best medical decisions.

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“While clinical trials are ongoing to ascertain the safety and effectiveness of the HCQ drugs for COVID-19, there are known side effects of these medications that should be considered.”

Earlier, President Trump had stated at an April 4 news briefing regarding hydroxychloroquine: “What do you have to lose? Take it.” The president has hedged these remarks by saying people should consult with their doctors.

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Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a simple anti-malarial drug approved by the FDA to treat malaria and other ailments. Once a drug is authorised by the FDA, the release explained, it may be prescribed for unapproved uses by doctors, depending on a physician’s evaluation.

But the medicines “have not been proven safe or effective for treating COVID-19”, the FDA said in its release.  “If he [Trump] hadn’t promoted the early and improper enthusiasm for the drug, I doubt if the states would have even been aware of it,” said Dr Kenneth B Klein.

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Klein said it’s expected that government and medics looked into hydroxychloroquine – which is approved for treating malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus – as a possible solution during a terrifying pandemic, but the time and energy has been squandered. The potential side effects are worrisome, especially because many infected patients already have underlying health conditions, he said.

“The states and the federal government are reacting in light of that fear, but it’s not a rational response,” Klein said.