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 sparked 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. The mayor of the French city of Nice, Christian Estrosi, said on television Monday that he was on his sixth day of treatment and has “the sense I’ve been cured.”