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The facts about coronavirus, Chloroquine and Azithromycin

7th April 2020

Thanks to multiple promotions from a certain President, there are now a lot of false beliefs circulating about how existing medicines could be used in the treatment (or prevention) of coronavirus (COVID-19). We thought we’d share the facts…

Chloroquine 

Chloroquine is an anti-malarial drug that works to reduce fever and inflammation. It’s used in the treatment of malaria and there are currently clinical trials going on to test whether or not the drug could also be used against the virus that causes COVID-19.

The important thing to note is that this is only being used as part of clinical trials and is not licensed for coronavirus treatment. You should not be attempting to take or obtain this medicine, outside of one of these trials as there is insufficient evidence about its effectiveness. Not only that, but there are also serious side effects including liver and renal damage.

Clinical trials for the use of Chloroquine against coronavirus are happening all over the world but evidence of its effectiveness remains “anecdotal”. Some countries have authorised its use in emergency situations, which means that in certain circumstances, hospitals can request the drug for critical patients - it does not mean you should attempt to self treat with the drug.

Hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine is a Chloroquine derivative and the drug that President Trump has referred to at a recent press conference, saying “What do you have to lose? Take it”. However, our government is less blasé about the drug and have issued a news story stating that it is not licensed for use against coronavirus.

This is not only because of potential side effects or misuse. The complication with Hydroxychloroquine is that it’s not just an anti-malarial drug - it’s also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus.

This means that using the drug for widespread use during the current pandemic could cause large scale shortages and leave those who already use Hydroxychloroquine, struggling to get their medications.

Again, this makes it even more important to follow government guidance. As it stands, the WHO has not approved Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment.

Azithromycin

Arguably the most dangerous misbelief about coronavirus treatment is that Azithromycin is a viable option for this. Azithromycin is a widely available antibiotic that is used in the treatment of sexually transmitted infections (such as Chlamydia), eye infections, ear infections and skin infections.

The key thing to note is that Azithromycin is used in the treatment of a number of bacterial infections. Antibiotics only have the ability to kill bacteria, they do not have any effect on viruses (such as the common cold, flu or coronavirus). And actually, taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can be dangerous to yourself and others. This is because it can cause antibiotic resistance and stop them from working when you (or others) do need them.

There is absolutely no evidence that Azithromycin would be effective at treating COVID-19. In a statement directly from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website, they state:

“No, antibiotics do not work against viruses. The 2019-nCOV is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment”.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you live with is showing signs of COVID-19 (such as a fever, dry, persistent cough or difficulty breathing) then you should follow all government advice and call the 111 coronavirus service if symptoms worsen.

Staying Safe During the Pandemic

If you wish to stay safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of being infected. If you are going out in public, consider wearing a face mask. At the prior link, you can find N95/FFP2 masks which can filter the Coronavirus from the air you breathe.

Hand sanitiser can kill viruses or bacteria if they find their way onto your hands as you leave your home. Hand sanitising lotion is useful when you are out of the house and it is not convenient to wash your hands with soap and water.

Keep the surfaces in your home clean and disinfected with disinfecting surface cleaner. This cleaner can kill viruses and bacteria on surfaces. It can be used to disinfect surfaces in public places to help reduce the risk of Coronavirus transmission.

Consider using disposable gloves as you sanitise your home. These gloves are also useful when cleaning and sanitising surfaces in public areas. You can buy face masks, surface sanitisers and disposable gloves at the UK Meds pharmacy.