DOH says use of malaria medicine to cure COVID-19 'not recommended'

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2020 04:27 PM | Updated as of Sep 18 2020 04:28 PM

Francisco Del Carmen, one of the oldest COVID19 survivors undergoes his regular dialysis session at the World Citi Medical Center in Quezon City on July 9, 2020. At 90 years old, Del Carmen battled the virus for 19 days in the hospital and was discharged from the hospital today. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday cautioned against suggestions to use malaria medication hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent COVID-19.

This, as a group of doctors and concerned citizens reportedly suggested to end the lockdown to use hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis for high-risk individuals.

But in a response to media, the DOH said that while it is important to spur the economy “it is equally important to ensure that everyone is safe, not just from COVID-19 but from other causes.”

The DOH said the lifting of the lockdown should be approached cautiously.

“Slowly but surely. If we hurry, we run the risk of losing what progress we have made, endangering the lives of people and overburdening the health care system. If these things happen, we will again be put into tighter lockdowns and go through the process again,” the department said.

It also said that people should always check if experimental treatments are approved.

The DOH pointed out that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are not recommended for patients with probable or confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia, for outpatients with early or mild COVID- 19 disease, or as prophylaxis or prevention of COVID- 19 even when it is used with other drugs such as macrolides like azithromycin and antiviral agents lopinavir-ritonavir and favipiravir.

“According to the FDA, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine had safety issues like serious heart rhythm problems, including blood and lymph system disorders, kidney injuries, and liver problems and failure,” the DOH added.

The department said people should “stick to what has been proven to be effective,” which would be handwashing, wearing of face masks, and physical distancing.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, as well as lopinavir-ritonavir, were among the investigational drugs included in the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trial for COVID-19 treatment. However, they were removed from the trial after tests showed that they did now show positive effects for COVID-19 patients.