New Delhi: With US President Donald Trump aggressively pushing ‘Hydroxychloroquine’ as a potential new treatment for the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a unprecedented global surge in demand of the the drug. Through his promotion, the drug has been catapulted to overnight fame, as an effective treatment for the deadly virus. Also Read - I Asked Him if He Would Release Hydroxychloroquine; He Was Really Good, Says Donald Trump on Modi
On Sunday, Trump used his daily White House coronavirus briefings to urge Americans to take hydroxychloroquine, a move that has been widely criticized as medical misinformation. Because it’s too soon, to conclude anything.
What is the medicine used for?
Hydroxychloroquine, one of the oldest and best-known anti-malarial drugs, is also known to treat auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The drug which has been around since the 1950s is cheap and easily available.
However, over the past few days, the drug has suddenly attracted attention as a potential antiviral agent and the hope is that they can also inhibit the virus that causes Covid-19. As per a Business Insider report, hydroxychloroquine works by slowing the rate at which a virus reproduces itself, so all it does is to buy some time for a person’s immune system to build up its own defenses to take on the coronavirus.
Many doctors in several countries, have reported some success in treating Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine, when paired with the antibiotic azithromycin. Summing it up, it has helped some people recover faster and avoid the most severe symptoms of coronavirus, however these evidence have been said anecdotal.
So, does it actually work?
While Trump might have been promoting it, scientists aren’t sure about its effectiveness against coronavirus because not enough studies have been conducted. As of now, there’s no conclusive proof that the drugs are effective, many experts have noted, adding that there might be risks and potential side effects of the medicine.
“If it truly has a dramatic effect on the clinical course of Covid-19 we would already have evidence for that. We don’t, which tells us that hydroxychloroquine, if it even works at all, will likely be shown to have modest effects at best,” Dr Joyeeta Basu, a senior consultant physician, told the BBC.
An article in the Lancet medical journal even goes on to say that hydroxychloroquine can have dangerous side-effects if the dose is not carefully controlled.
Trump’s obsession with it
Well, Trump just can’t stop talking about it, ever since he has been influenced by a misleading French study on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. Also, under mounting pressure to deal with the enormous cases of Covid-19 in the US, Donald Trump has called hydroxychloroquine a ‘game-changer’ in the fight against Covid-19.
On Sunday, he said, ”We bought a tremendous amount of … hydroxychloroquine, which I think is, you know, it’s a great malaria drug. It’s worked unbelievably, it’s a powerful drug on malaria. And there are signs that it works on [coronavirus], some very strong signs…”
Not just that, the US President has been repeatedly contradicted by public health experts who have warned that there is only ‘anecdotal evidence’ that the drugs could be helpful, but Trump hasn’t adhered to the advice. Trump’s enthusiastic promotion of the anti-malarial drug has also led some to many speculating whether he has a financial interest in the drug.
He even went on to threaten India, if the government does not heed to his request to supply the drug.
Currently, more than 50 trials are being carried out, including in the US, UK, Spain and China, to assess if they really are able to reduce the impact of Covid-19. Till then, we have to really wait and watch.
At this point, it is only safe to exercise caution and maintain social distancing to protect yourself from the virus. No matter what Trump says, there is still no cure for this pandemic, as of now. But, hope we get a cure for it very soon!