French Study Finds Anti-Malaria Drug Chloroquine May Be Highly Effective Against Coronavirus

Chris Menahan
Mar. 18, 2020

The anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) was reportedly found to be highly effective against the coronavirus in a new study from renowned research professor Didier Raoult and the French government is planning to conduct extensive trials on the drug in the near future.

From ConnexionFrance, "French researcher posts successful Covid-19 drug trial":
A renowned research professor in France has reported successful results from a new treatment for Covid-19, with early tests suggesting it can stop the virus from being contagious in just six days.

Professor Didier Raoult from infection hospital l'Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire (IHU) Méditerranée Infection in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), published a video explaining the trials on Monday March 16.

Professor Raoult is an infectious diseases specialist and head of the IHU Méditerranée Infection, who has been tasked by - and consulted by - the French government to research possible treatments of Covid-19.

He said that the first Covid-19 patients he had treated with the drug chloroquine had seen a rapid and effective speeding up of their healing process, and a sharp decrease in the amount of time they remained contagious.

[...] The treatment was offered to 24 patients, who were among the first to become infected in the south east of France, and who had voluntarily admitted themselves to hospital for the process.

Patients were given 600mcg per day for 10 days. They were closely monitored, as the drug can interact with other medication, and cause severe side effects in some cases.

Professor Raoult said: "We included everyone who was in agreement [to be treated], which was almost everyone. Two towns in the protocol, Nice and Avignon, gave us [infected] patients who had not yet received treatment.

"We were able to ascertain that patients who had not received Plaquenil (the drug containing hydroxychloroquine) were still contagious after six days, but of those that had received Plaquenil, after six days, only 25% were still contagious."
From the study:

ConnexionFrance continues:
A new academic study, published on Friday March 13 by US scientific researchers, also said that chloroquine appeared to be an effective treatment, and appears to align with the findings in France.

It said: "Use of chloroquine (tablets) is showing favorable outcomes in humans infected with Coronavirus including faster time to recovery and shorter hospital stay...

"Research shows that chloroquine also has strong potential as a prophylactic (preventative) measure against coronavirus in the lab, while we wait for a vaccine to be developed.

"Chloroquine is an inexpensive, globally available drug that has been in widespread human use since 1945 against malaria, autoimmune and various other conditions...[it] can be prescribed to adults and children of all ages.

"It can also be safely taken by pregnant women and nursing mothers [and] has been widely used to treat human diseases, such as malaria, amoebiosis, HIV, and autoimmune diseases, without significant detrimental side effects."
The French study, which you can read here, was talked about on Tucker Carlson's show on Wednesday night:

It was a strange interview and he seemed to be overselling the case, regardless we'll find out whether it's effective over the coming weeks.

South Korea and China have already been treating people with it and a few other studies were released on it which appeared promising, though they've been combining it with another drug rather than the antibiotic azithromycin, as in this case.

Here's some reasons for caution from Medscape:
Study Splits Infectious Disease Community

The announcement of positive results from this small study split medical opinion.

Professor Gilles Pialoux, an infectious disease specialist at Tenon Hospital, was cautious in his response. He told Medscape's French Edition: "The idea is interesting but we need large, randomised, controlled trials. We should not communicate this kind of information on YouTube, it is not meaningful.

"Don't forget, this compound has not been included in Inserm's trial because there are more interesting avenues, such as remdesivir or Kaletra [lopinavir/ritonavir]. We must be careful not to repeat the story with cyclosporin in HIV."

Christian Perronne, head of infectious diseases, University Hospital Raymond Poincaré, Garches, Paris, was more enthusiastic.

"I really believe in hydroxychloroquine. It is a drug I find rather fascinating, that has been used for decades. There have been positive results in an in vitro study and a preliminary Chinese study in 100 patients which showed that hydroxychloroquine reduced the viral load, the symptoms lasted for less time, and they are not as severe. This could reduce the number of carriers, which I find interesting from an epidemiological perspective.

"I think from an ethical point of view, we should suggest it to all patients with severe disease who are hospitalised, under surveillance and on short treatment, paying attention to drug interactions, especially with drugs that prolong the QT interval. Afterwards, in terms of adverse effects, at increased doses, it is possible that patients will have pain or fever, but it seems that the treatment is effective at lower doses, according to the Chinese data. In any case, the adverse effects of this compound are not dangerous."

On the adverse effects, Professor Thomas Papo, from Bichat Hospital, the University of Paris, confirmed via email: "Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil, which is not chloroquine), vaunted by Didier Raoult as an anti-viral, has been used for decades in tens of thousands of patients, for several decades, so we have a huge follow-up and lots of data. This drug is remarkably well tolerated and we give it to all patients with lupus (for example), including in pregnant women. The main complication (retinal toxicity) is rare and does not last beyond 5 years of continuous use."
President Trump is going to make a big announcement tomorrow related to cutting through "red tape" and "reduc[ing] regulatory barriers" with the FDA and there has been speculation that it may be related.

BGR reported Wednesday night that the French government is going to conduct extensive trials on the drug:
The French government said the trials will be extended to more patients, as there's no scientific proof to back up the findings of the first test. An independent team of researchers will carry out the new trials, while others advised caution until more studies are available. Apparently, the Plaquenil therapy, a drug also used to treat autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, might have undesirable effects, including overdoses.

"I have taken note of the results and have given the authorization so that a larger trial by other teams can be initiated as soon as possible on a larger number of patients," said health minister Oliver Veran. He said that he hoped the new tests will consolidate the findings of Professor Raoult, but he added that "it is absolutely fundamental to base any decision of public health policy on validated scientific data and the validation processes, one cannot negotiate with."
UPDATE: Sure enough, Trump announced Thursday that chloroquine regulations are going to be loosened by the FDA.

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