Italian doctors raise concerns over possible antimalarial use for coronavirus

Drugs used against malaria and for rheumatoid arthritis among other autoimmune diseases are being researched for their possible in treating Covid-19 patients. Labs are conducting clinical trials on chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

One of the questions is whether the drugs could be used to prevent the disease.

The doctors, from Sapienza University in Rome, are aware of the lack of information available about the medications’ use on coronavirus patients.

The letter states: “Is it ethical to propose CQ or HCQ for preventing the spreading of Covid-19 without any data coming from evidence-based medicine?

“Is it permissible to take a controlled risk in the event of a pandemic?

“In such a case: would it be reasonable to consider antimalarials as primary prophylaxis in healthy subjects living in highest risk regions or, at least, to use them in those tested positive for Covid-19 but still asymptomatic?

“Waiting for supportive data from clinical trials, the scientific community is moving towards pre-emptive use of antimalarials.”

The doctors also raise the concern that, if the “mass prophylaxis” approached was approved the supply could be insufficient to sustain it.

The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), which co-owns the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases with the British Medical Journal (BMJ), voiced their concern that the mass use of the drugs to treat coronavirus patients could have implications who suffer rheumatic diseases and therefore need the supplies.

EULAR President, Professor Iain McInnes, warned that the chain of events after using the drugs must also be considered.

Prof McInnes said: “EULAR is concerned, however, that the diversion of drug supplies away from people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases may compromise the health of this important and sizeable group of patients in Europe and beyond.

“A balanced approach that meets the imperatives of the ongoing pandemic, but which also takes account of the needs of patients already taking these drugs is essential.”

EULAR’s patient membership group (PARE) has asked that the drug manufacturers prepare to boost production to satisfy a potential increase in demand.

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US President Donald Trump has approved of the research of hydroxychloroquine, telling a press conference last month: “I feel good about it.”

An Oxford-led research team stated that research partly directed by them found the drug is safe to be used how it is currently administered to rheumatoid arthritis patients.

But they warned there is not enough data on its usage at higher doses, and if would be effective when treating coronavirus patients.

In a statement published on their website, the British Society for Rheumatology said: “We are aware that research is underway to explore the effectiveness of a number of rheumatic drugs in treating coronavirus, although information remains limited at this stage.

“COVID-19 also appears to affect children, young people and adults differently, with infections milder in children, although we do not yet understand exactly why this is the case.”

“Data on the UK rate and severity of coronavirus infection in patients with rheumatic conditions is also expected to be gathered in the coming weeks.”

The claims come as the coronavirus death toll surpasses 47,208 globally.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide has reached 935,817.

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