Chloroquine is a preventative malaria medication. A version of Chloroquine, known as Hydroxychloroquine, has shown promise as a COVID-19 treatment type.
Most of the studies that look into Chloroquine and COVID-19 were done on a small scale. One recent study of a French hospital examined 42 patients with COVID-19, 26 patients received Hydroxychloroquine treatment and 16 received standard care. Of the 26 patients who took Hydroxychloroquine, only 20 completed the study. Six of these patients took the antimalarial alongside an antibiotic called Azithromycin. By the fifth day of treatment, all six of these patients were cured of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). 50% of patients who took the Hydroxychloroquine alone, were also no longer infected after the fifth day of treatment. In the control group of individuals only receiving standard care, only two of of the patients were cured of coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine has shown encouraging results, but a larger-scale study of approximately 1,500 people is needed.
Since this small scale study has shown promise, further research has been conducted into the preventative qualities of Chloroquine. Researchers in Oxford are currently testing the efficacy of Chloroquine in preventing COVID-19 in health workers with a high risk of infection.
Chloroquine is not without its risks. Every drug could be poisonous if taken in the incorrect amount, so it is important to be careful when prescribing it. Chloroquine can pose serious side effects, including dangerous changes to heart rhythm. Furthermore, Chloroquine has some dangerous drug interactions. As the actual benefits of taking Chloroquine for COVID-19 have not yet been established, doctors are reluctant to subject their patients to the associated risks.
Besides, Chloroquine is an essential drug for people who have rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus and inflammatory diseases. There are concerns that if Chloroquine is used widely as a prophylactic (preventative) treatment for COVID-19, these other patients might struggle to access the medication they need.
For these reasons, doctors are hesitant to prescribe Chloroquine for COVID-19 treatment. Having more substantial evidence to prove the efficacy of this drug would allow doctors better to evaluate the benefits and risks of the treatment so that they provide the best care for their placements.