Drugs’ prom­ise on virus brings short­ages

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION&WORLD -

Ex­cite­ment about treat­ing the new coro­n­avirus with malaria drugs is rais­ing hopes, in­clud­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. But the ev­i­dence that they may help is thin, and a run on the drugs is com­pli­cat­ing ac­cess for peo­ple who need them for rheuma­toid arthri­tis or lu­pus.

Chloro­quine and a sim­i­lar drug, hy­drox­y­chloro­quine, showed en­cour­ag­ing signs in small, early tests against the coro­n­avirus. But the drugs have ma­jor side ef­fects — one rea­son sci­en­tists don’t want to give them with­out ev­i­dence of their value, even in this emer­gency.

Yet those pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies raised in­tense in­ter­est af­ter Trump tweeted that hy­drox­y­chloro­quine plus an an­tibi­otic could be “one of the big­gest game chang­ers in the his­tory of medicine” and should “be put in use im­me­di­ately.” He cited a French study that gave the combo to six pa­tients.

Some French doc­tors and politi­cians also are push­ing to ex­pand hy­drox­y­chloro­quine’s use. Mayor Chris­tian Estrosi of Nice, France, said on tele­vi­sion Mon­day that he was on his sixth day of treat­ment and has “the sense I’ve been cured.”

Sci­en­tists, how­ever, warn about rais­ing hopes and say ma­jor stud­ies are needed to prove the drugs are safe and ef­fec­tive against coro­n­avirus, and to show that peo­ple would not have re­cov­ered just as well on their own. One such study starts Tues­day in New York.

“Right now, there is no drug that looks like it’s proven so over­whelm­ing in early-stage clin­i­cal tri­als that we can say it’s highly promis­ing,” for­mer Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mis­sioner Scott Got­tlieb said Sun­day on CBS’ “Face the Na­tion.”

Chloro­quine has been used to treat malaria since the 1930s. Hy­drox­y­chloro­quine came along a decade later and has fewer side ef­fects. The lat­ter is sold in generic form and un­der the brand name Plaque­nil for use against sev­eral diseases.

The drugs can cause heart rhythm prob­lems, se­verely low blood pres­sure and mus­cle or nerve dam­age. Plaque­nil’s la­bel warns of pos­si­ble dam­age to the retina, es­pe­cially when used at higher doses, for longer times and with cer­tain other medicines such as the breast can­cer drug ta­mox­ifen.

The sup­ply al­ready is pinched for pa­tients who need the drugs for other rea­sons. A Univer­sity of Utah ser­vice that tracks short­ages says four of the seven com­pa­nies that make generic hy­drox­y­chloro­quine have re­ported them. Three other generic drug­mak­ers pre­vi­ously stopped mak­ing the tablets.

Pa­tients al­ready are feel­ing pinched. Toni Grimes, 47, has been tak­ing hy­drox­y­chloro­quine for 13 years for lu­pus and said Mon­day that, for the first time, her stan­dard 90-day re­fill or­der is be­ing de­layed un­til March 30. Grimes, who runs a Phoenix-area Lu­pus Foun­da­tion sup­port group, said an­other mem­ber also hasn’t re­ceived her re­fill.

“This is our main­stay” treat­ment, she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.