A malaria pill from the 1940s has caught the eyes of doctors, analysts, and even Elon Musk as a potential coronavirus treatment
Andrew Dunn 14 minutes ago
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Chloroquine, an anti-malaria pill, has shown early promise is treating COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Crystal Cox/Business Insider
As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, some drugs are showing promise in treating patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
There are no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, but researchers are testing a slew of existing drugs to see if they could work.
One of those drugs is called chloroquine, a widely used anti-malaria pill that was first approved in the US in 1949.
Countries including China, South Korea, and Belgium have added it to COVID-19 treatment guidelines as anecdotal reports have suggested that it might work.
There is no peer-reviewed clinical data showing that chloroquine works against COVID-19. But that hasn't stopped doctors from using it or US prescriptions from spiking. Even Elon Musk tweeted that it could be a treatment.-----------How close are we to a cure?
By the end of January, China was already exploring how existing drugs might be repurposed to kill the virus.
One of the first drugs China explored with some success was an antimalarial drug called chloroquine phosphate. Speaking at a press conference on February 18, Sun Yanrong, deputy head of the China National Centre for Biotechnology Development at the ministry of science and technology, said this drug has already been under clinical trial in more than 10 hospitals in Beijing as well as in Guangdong Province and in Hunan Province.
According to Sun, patients treated with chloroquine saw a greater drop in fever, an improvement in their lung scans and required a shorter time to recover compared to parallel groups.
Among other drugs currently being tested in China is a Swiss-made anti-inflammation drug called Tocilizumab that suppresses overreactions by the immune system.
Another interesting advance has been made with a US antiviral drug called remdesivir, which has had impressive results in tests with more than 200 extremely ill patients.
Remdesivir was developed by Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola patients. It had good results in laboratories and with animals but was less successful with tests out in the field. Nevertheless, global health authorities deem it the most promising of possible treatments for people with severe cases of the virus.
French pharmaceutical company Sanofi has announced it is ready to offer millions of doses of an antimalarial drug to French authorities after "promising" initial trials.
Sanofi said it could potentially treat 300,000 COVID-19 patients with the antimalarial drug Plaquenil, a spokesperson for the laboratory told AFP, adding that the group was ready to work with French health authorities “to confirm these results”.
Sanofi and its partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc have also started a clinical trial of their rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara as a treatment for the virus, the companies said on Monday.
Testing for patients with mid-to-severe stages of the virus will begin immediately, and the companies anticipate the trial will test up to 400 patients.