Sunday 5 April, 2020

Minister sounds warning: Don’t use malaria drugs for COVID-19

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, lays a paper during the 22nd sitting of the House of Representatives.
© 2020 Office of the Parliament.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, lays a paper during the 22nd sitting of the House of Representatives. © 2020 Office of the Parliament.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has warned against the use of anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydrochloroquine to self-treat COVID-19.

The advice comes as three people in Nigeria and two in the United States have died as a result of chloroquine poisoning, having taken the drugs without medical supervision.

Deyalsingh was responding to an urgent question from Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe during Wednesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives.

Dr Bodoe questioned whether the Health Ministry would consider making chloroquine and hydrochloroquine available to COVID-19 patients in T&T in light of reports that these drugs may be of value in the treatment of such patients.

Deyalsingh noted that reports that these drugs could be effective in treating the virus are “purely anecdotal in a small number of patients” and holds no scientific weight.

“It has been proven in China that it is no better than regular supportive, symptomatic care.”

The Minister noted that use of the drug outside of its intended purpose could have potentially fatal effects, especially given that malaria is a parasite while COVID-19 is a virus.

“The advice is: chloroquine or hydrochloroquine are absolutely useless and possibly dangerous to use to treat COVID-19 and we don’t recommend it.”

Responding to a further inquiry from Dr Bodoe on reports that pharmacists have noted increased demand for these drugs, Deyalsingh urged citizens against hoarding, as he said this would create a gap in the supply of drugs for patients in actual need of the medication.

“When you hoard drugs especially, you leave a gap in the healthcare system. So, people who really need chloroquine or hydrochloroquine for malaria now don’t have it. What you do now, is create much more malaria cases.

I would urge the public to return any chloroquine or hydrochloroquine to your pharmacy. It poses no real benefit to you, and if… you use it inappropriately, you could end up with chloroquine poisoning.”

Deyalsingh said COVID-19 patients will continue to be treated in line with protocols set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which stipulates supportive, symptomatic care.

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