By Ashley Penn-Nixon
Hydroxychloroquine, a familiar drug used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, is currently under study as a possible treatment for COVID-19 and with the number of cases over 1.9million worldwide, the drug that has gained traction.
While Hydroxychloroquine is said to treat the deadly virus, health officials quickly denied the validity of the so-called remedy.
Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health Dr. Nikkiah Forbes said the scientific community is currently exhausting all efforts to review this treatment.
“The treatments of COVID-19 is unknown, it’s a new virus and we’re learning about this. The scientific community is doing the best quality review of such treatments. Hydroxychloroquine is just one of those five arms of a research study that is going on right now and there are other treatment modalities that are not included in that,” she said.
“Let me say across the board that there is no known treatment,” Dr. Forbes pointed out. “Hydroxychloroquine was postulated to have a theoretical benefit. That being said, there are many other drugs in outbreak infections that have been postulated to have a theoretical benefit but can actually cause the patient harm and we have the full data — we do not aim to cause the patient harm.”
Dr. Forbes further explained scenarios in which hydroxychloroquine could be used in patients, noting it could be utilized in extreme cases.
“The FDA did release the label restrictions on this drug so that it could be used off label and it can be used in something called companionate care in patients that are the sickest, because there could be the potential that you can offer therapies to these patients who in fact would have a very very high likelihood of passing away,” she said.
The health official stressed the level of uncertainty that exists regarding the drug as high toxicity for people who are taking overdoses has been reported internationally.
“We do not know if the drug would work. We are already seeing in some locations that there is hydroxychloroquine toxicity for people who are taking overdoses. There are side effects and people have as a matter of fact died,” Dr. Forbes said.
Unwilling to risk the lives of COVID-19 patients, Dr. Forbes said due to a lack of confirmation and approval of the drug health officials are opting not to administer it to persons.
“There’s a process in which we determine whether or not these drugs will work categorically. In these small studies, there were only small amounts of patients and it was not very robust information and it was not scientifically sound at this time,” she said.
“Let me say that if we find out later on that this causes harm, that it’s a problem to the patient and that is why we don’t skip through all the necessary steps. Hydroxychloroquine is not an approved proven treatment at this time,” Dr. Forbes concluded.
Also weighing in on the matter was Dr. Merceline Dahl- Regis, health consultant to the Office of the Prime Minister, who noted the disapproval of the use of hydroxychloroquine in the country.
“The Pharmacy Council has issued a position that is now being shared with The Bahamas Medical Council on the unsafe use of this drug and it is certainly not recommended for the treatment of COVID-19 cases,” she said.