US Approves Anti-Malaria Drug Chloroquine As COVID-19 Vaccine

President Trump said in a Thursday press briefing that chloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and severe arthritis, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to test as a COVID-19 coronavirus treatment, as the number of cases nationwide continues to increase.

  • The drug will be used in a clinical trial, according to FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, who spoke during the press briefing.
  • Trump also said that other antiviral medications will be fast-tracked for FDA approval.
  • “We will collect that data and make the absolute right decisions based upon those data about the safety and efficacy of the treatments,” said Hahn.
  • Trump also claimed that the White House has “slashed red tape” to speed up approval for vaccines and other treatments.
  • Trump added that the FDA approved “compassionate use” for a number of patients, which allows very ill patients to use drugs not yet approved by the agency for widespread use.

Crucial quote: “What’s also important is not to provide false hope,” said Hahn, who spoke after Trump, adding, “We may have the right drug, but it might not be in the appropriate dosage form right now, and it might do more harm than good.”

What to watch for: Any updates on chloroquine or other treatments. Trump said he spoke to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday night about chloroquine, and that the governor wanted to be “first in line” to access the drug for the state’s 4,100 coronavirus patients.

Key background: The medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases reported March 9 that Plaquenil, the brand-name version of chloroquine, was effective in killing the coronavirus in laboratory experiments. 

Plaquenil was first approved in 1995 and, in addition to treating malaria, is used in patients with lupus or arthritis. Doctors and scientists are working to find an effective treatment for coronavirus, as one does not exist. 

The first vaccine clinical trial began Monday in Seattle, with the first person to enroll in the trial receiving the vaccine

A number of additional treatments are in various stages of research, testing and commercial release.

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