The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of two anti-malaria drugs to treat patients infected by the coronavirus.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a statement on Sunday said that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could be prescribed to teens and adults with COVID-19 "as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible". The statement came after the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that marked the first EUA for a drug related to COVID-19 in the US, a media report said on Monday.
Currently, there are no specific drugs for COVID-19 which, as shown in the Statista graph below (accurate as of March 26), has sickened over half a million people. According to Johns Hopkins University, over 720,000 cases have been confirmed, more than 34,000 people have died, and over 152,000 have recovered since the pandemic started in China late last year.
Both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are used to treat diseases including malaria, and have "shown activity in laboratory studies against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)," the HHS stated.
"Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Clinical trials are needed to provide scientific evidence that these treatments are effective."
Under the EUA, health care providers and patients must be given fact sheets outlining the known risks and drug interactions of the medications.
The HSS said it accepted 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate from an arm of the pharmaceutical company Novartis, and one million of chloroquine phosphate from Bayer Pharmaceuticals to be used for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients or in clinical trials.
"These and other companies may donate additional doses, and companies have ramped up production to provide additional supplies of the medication to the commercial market," the HHS said.