Second French Study Shows Malaria Drug Effective in Treating COVID-19 Patients

A second French study of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine shows the drug is effective in treating COVID-19 patients, researchers said.

The first study stoked controversy because it wasnt peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. The second study is also preprint.

Researchers at the IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute in Marseille, France, who performed the study, said on the institutes website that the speed of the spread of the virus prompted it to post results submitted for publication. The papers will be replaced with a link to an official publication once the articles are accepted and published, it said.

Professor Didier Raoult, a biologist and professor of microbiology, announced the new results on Friday night of the study (pdf) involving 80 patients with COVID-19. Researchers said all of the patients receiving a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin improved except for an 86-year-old patient who died and a 74-year-old patient who is still in an intensive care unit.

A pharmacist shows a box of antimalarial tablets in Rennes, France on March 23, 2020. (Damien Meyer/AFP via Getty Images)

Patients were given a combination of 200 milligrams of oral hydroxychloroquine sulfate, three times a day for 10 days, combined with azithromycin. Five hundred milligrams of the antibiotic was given to patients on day one, followed by 250 milligrams per day over the next four days.

Virus cultures taken from patients respiratory samples were negative in 97.5 percent of patients at day 5, allowing the rapid discharge of patients from highly contagious hospital wards, the researchers wrote in the study (pdf).

“We believe other teams should urgently evaluate this cost-effective therapeutic strategy, to both avoid the spread of the disease and treat patients as soon as possible before severe respiratory irreversible complications take hold,” they said.

Reacting to the new study, Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said during an appearance on Fox News “Ingraham Angle”: “It was not controlled. But its again another piece of suggestive evidence that hydroxychloroquine or its related drug, chloroquine, has antiviral properties, and we need to look at that seriously.”

hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine
hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine tablets are shown in at the IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute in Marseille, France on Feb. 26, 2020. (Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images)

Being Used as Treatment, Prophylactic

Some experts have said that the early results from France arent sufficient to prescribe hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients and pointed to a study done by Chinese researchers indicating the drug had no effect on COVID-19 patients.

But doctors across the United States, Bahrain, and France have been using the drug as a treatment and prophylactic. Its also been recommended by officials in India for healthcare workers. India, Hungary, and the United Kingdom have banned export of hydroxychloroquine sulfate in recent days, as well as drugs containing the chemical.

“As Hungary is one of the worlds largest exporters of this ingredient, the protection and medical supply of the Hungarian population is now a priority,” the Hungarian government said in a statement on its website, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasnt approved any existing drugs for treating COVID-19, but drugs approved for one use can be prescribed by doctors for another use, a practice known as off label prescription.

“There are FDA-approved treatments that may help ease the symptoms of COVID-19,” the agency said in a statement this week.

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