Malaria drugs in COVID-19: Friend or foe?

A cheap, safe and widely available drug that has been used to treat malaria for at least a century has emerged as the most sought-after medicine in the world for the treatment of COVID-19. Though found to be promising, should a widespread use of anti-malarial drugs be approved or should it wait until more definitive research?

The recent outbreak of the respiratory infection COVID-19 has taken the whole world by a storm. With the increasing number of deaths every day, the need for treatment has become inevitable. Recently, there has been a lot of attention to malarial drugs in treating COVID-19.

“What do you have to lose? Take it.” referred by President Trump.

The U.S Food and Drug Admisnteration have said to approve the two drugs for treatment, despite any solid evidence of research. A number of researchers all around the world are working to determine if hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can help in preventing the transmission in people exposed to the virus. The center for disease control and prevention (CDC) added that though malarial drugs are available by prescription may react when consumed with other drugs.

“Clinical trials are needed to provide scientific evidence that these treatments are effective,” stated the Department of Health and Human Services.

The malarial drugs touted by President Trump as potentially biggest game-changers have received a lot of criticism from researchers in China, France, and Brazil. In a trial conducted in France, hydroxychloroquine reduced neither the cases or deaths being reported. In studies conducted in China and Brazil, both the drugs failed to help the patients. Having enough red flags being raised, currently, the malarial drug trials have been halted.

On average FDA takes 12 years to approve a new drug and may vary for already existing drugs. The fast track of the use of malarial drugs is due to the increasing COVID-19 cases and deaths, allowing healthcare providers to access unapproved usage of drugs. FDA concludes that the emergency use authorization will require fact sheets be provided to every healthcare provider and patient about using the drugs to treat COVID-19, including the risks and possible drug interactions.

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