Role of Drugs in Preventing Covid-19: Hydroxychloroquine
The drug, hydroxychloroquine, has gained notoriety over the past year. From a relatively quiet life being used for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, certain dermatological conditions and malaria, it started gaining prominence when theories started being advanced about its possible effectiveness in preventing or curing the symptoms of Covid-19, apparently based on in vitro studies.
Its alleged effectiveness in curing Covid-19 was promoted in one video that spread rapidly on social media before being pulled down by social media companies on account of its unsubstantiated evidence. The video featured the scene below, in which some members of America’s Frontline Doctors presented a press briefing in front of the US Supreme Court and made many claims about the drug in July 2020.
The claims were further fuelled by being retweets and endorsement by members of the President’s family, including the President himself.
However, independent scientific studies cast down on these claims1,2,3, leading to official warnings being issued against the use of the drug for Covid-19 outside clinical trials. These warnings did not affect existing uses for the conditions listed above.
Having evaluated the findings from the various studies involving Covid-19 and Hydroxychloroquine, the World Health Organisation in association with the British Medical Journal and Magic Ecosystem Foundation have now come to a firm recommendation against administering the drug as a prophylaxis against Covid-19. The associated infographic from the BMJ is shown below:
Of interest to the reader will be the following conclusions:
Used prophylactically, hydroxychloroquine has a small or no effect on death and hospital admission (high certainty) and probably has a small or no effect on laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (moderate certainty). It probably increases the risk of adverse effects leading to discontinuation of the drug (moderate certainty).BMJ 02 March 2021
The reader is referred to the British Medical Journal website for a fuller discussion. It is also worth noting that this is the first of a series of articles that the BMJ will be running on drugs that are claimed to be useful for prophylaxis against Covid-19; hence we can expect to see Azithromycin and Zinc some time in the near future.