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Early Studies Show Malaria Drug Could Be Used to Treat Coronavirus Patients

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At the end of the trial, all six patients treated with the hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin combination tested negative for the virus after six days.


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Tré Goins-Phillips

There’s a drug that was developed more than half a century ago that might be incredibly useful as the world is gripped by a serious medical pandemic.

To date, the number of known cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. has surpassed 10,700, and at least 149 people have died from the illness, known as COVID-19. So early research indicating a years-old malaria drug could help with this crisis is offering cautious optimism to Americans hunkered down in their homes.

Elon Musk, an engineer, entrepreneur and the CEO of SpaceX, is interested in learning more about the drug, hydroxychloroquine, combined with azithromycin.

Though small, researchers and virologists in France have completed a clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. They used the drug combination, intended to treat malaria, arthritis and various other ailments, on 26 coronavirus patients. At the end of the trial, all six patients treated with the combination tested negative for the virus after six days. Of the 20 treated with just hydroxychloroquine, 57% tested negative after six days. And only 12.5% of the control group tested negative.

“Despite its small sample size, our survey shows that hydroxychloroquine treatment is significantly associated with viral load reduction/disappearance in COVID-19 patients and its effect is reinforced by azithromycin,” reads the study.

While FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn has issued a guidance urging Americans to be “wary of anyone claiming they can cure COVID-19,” he did indicate from the White House Thursday that the federal agency plans to fast-track potential anti-viral treatments, like hydroxychloroquine. He did, though, say it could take up to a year for testing to be completed.

“The FDA is committed to continuing to provide regulatory flexibility and guidance, but let me make one thing clear: the FDA’s responsibility to the American people is to ensure that products are safe and effective,” said Hahn, tempering the words of President Donald Trump, who said such drugs could be available very soon.

Hahn did, however, say the FDA is expanding its work on potential therapeutic treatments for this novel coronavirus.

“We need to make sure that this sea of new treatments—we’ll get the right drug to the right patient at the right dosage at the right time,” he said, noting they are exploring hydroxychloroquine, which has been approved for other purposes.

Daniel Darling, a vice president at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a branch of the Southern Baptist Convention, urged Christians to pray this malaria drug “is one of many remedies.”