According to research, the ongoing uncertainty over whether hydroxychloroquine can successfully treat COVID-19 appears to have eroded demand considerably among hospitals and across the globe. Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that is approved to treat malaria, analogous to chloroquine. However, it is associated with less significant side-effects. It is also used for treating certain auto-immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It is considerably inexpensive and is an over-the-counter medication. Let us now move deeper into understanding more about what this drug is and how it works.
Mechanism of action of Hydroxychloroquine: Hydroxychloroquine is termed as an interferon blocker and functions by minimizing the response of the immune system against a virus. This mechanism of action of hydroxychloroquine has scientists globally and is currently at the center of investigation for its effectiveness against the dreadful COVID-19 infection. An overactive reaction by the immune system is believed to be predominantly responsible for consequent pneumonia, a severe manifestation of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Clinical outcomes with HCQ in COVID-19 patients: Initial reports from China discovered that chloroquine could stop SARS-CoV-2 in-vitro, and demonstrated seeming efficacy in treating COVID-19 in humans. However, it has yielded mixed results in the initial trials conducted in humans to test its efficacy in treating COVID 19 patients.
The experts who favor the drug’s use opine that Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) reduces the recovery time significantly and also improved pneumonia in trials involving patients with relatively mild COVID-19 symptoms. Also, a combination of HCQ and azithromycin resulted in clinical improvement in 78/80 COVID 19 patients. However, the researchers opposing the HCQ use argue that HCQ in addition to standard care was not more effective versus only standard care in a trial carried out in 30 patients with COVID-19 in China. So, at present, one cannot confirm the effectiveness of HCQ in treating COVID 19 patients.
Concerns with the widespread use of HCQ in COVID 19 patients: Presently, whether HCQ works in vivo against any virus is not definitely proven, and actually, it is not effective at all as per outcomes of randomized controlled trials against several viruses, including influenza. However, despite the lack of strong evidence, some people are now trying to self-medicate with the drug, with fatal outcomes. Hydroxychloroquine can have hazardous side-effects related to heart rhythm irregularities, in cases of improper dose control, and cases of chloroquine poisoning have already emerged in some parts around the globe.
Hence, currently “A Wait-and-Watch Strategy” is the only way forward till reliable data favoring HCQ in COVID 19 emerges. Till then, HCQ can be used as empirical treatment, strictly under doctor’s recommendations, to ease symptoms in COVID 19 patients.