In France, according to the French weekly Le Point, some corona patients have died after receiving the antimalarial drug chloroquine. However, it has been called one of the most promising drugs against the new coronavirus in recent weeks. Virologist Marc Van Ranst, among others, stated that he would take it himself if he contracted the virus.
Le Point does not give exact figures for the number of patients who died from the use of chloroquine. The magazine also mentions heart problems as a result of the medicine. On the authority of a hospital pharmacist, the weekly newspaper discusses arrhythmias, blood flow disorders, and cardiac arrest in patients who received hydroxychloroquine, with or without an antibiotic.
The pharmacist of a major French university hospital, correspondent of the Pharmacovigilance Centre in his region, issued an alert on Friday 27 March to infectious diseases doctors and pharmacists in his establishment. “Cases of Covid-19 positive patients [i.e., whose infection has been validated by a test] present, under hydroxychloroquine associated or not with azithromycin [an antibiotic], disorders of cardiac rhythm or conduction, cardiac arrest in other French hospitals. Some of these arrests turn out to be ‘fatal’,” according to the newspaper.
According to Le Point, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine health service in the south-west of France knows about people who took medicine themselves. Some of them had to be hospitalized or even resuscitated. The Point media says it has heard several testimonials over the past few weeks about the “wild use” of the drugs, by people who think they have been infected. The national medicines agency ANSM “evaluates” the cases. [“These cases are being evaluated,” the pharmacist told Point, and “will then be forwarded to the ANSM [Agence nationale de sécurité des médicaments].]
In recent weeks, there has been much debate about the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a potential drug against the new coronavirus. Scientists suspect that it has an antiviral and anti-inflammatory effect and prevents the development of a severe clinical picture. Laboratory tests point in that direction, but there is no real scientific evidence of how it works in humans.
Ten days ago, there was a limited clinical study by the French professor Didier Raoult, who combined hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin. Still, it was not possible to deduce with certainty whether the drug worked or not. It is, therefore, a matter of waiting for the results of several more extensive studies, such as that of Professor Herman Goossens, in hundreds to thousands of test subjects.
Although US President Donald Trump, among others, already speaks of a “gift from heaven”, the World Health Organization urges “caution”. Nevertheless, it is already used in many hospitals. In some African countries, there has been national approval for the use of the combination medicine.
The regional pharmacovigilance centers in France, the cutting edge of the country’s drug specialists, had already observed a month ago an “increase in orders for specialties based on chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine on the national territory”, following these amazing ads based on studies of extreme weakness. They point out that the risks, first of all of the cardiac toxicity during an overdose, but also at a therapeutic dose, linked to the use of chloroquine and its cousin hydroxychloroquine are very well known.
The products are strongly advised against in case of heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, disorders of blood potassium or calcium levels, porphyria (a metabolic disease). They should be avoided during pregnancy. They are also contraindicated in combination with other drugs, some of which are very common such as citalopram and escitalopram, antidepressants (Seropram, Seroplex…), anxiolytic, and antiallergic hydroxyzine contained in Atarax and others, domperidone (Motilium and generics) against nausea and vomiting…
Their adverse effects are numerous: ophthalmological (accommodation disorders, blurred vision, retinal damage), cardiac (conduction and cardiac rhythm disorders, cardiomyopathy), neuropsychiatric (convulsions, insomnia, depression, agitation, anxiety, confusion, hallucination, aggressiveness), gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary, hematological and dermatological. In addition, azithromycin is itself cardiotoxic.