The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has urged Australians not to seek out or use hydroxychloroquine to “cure” or “prevent” the COVID-19 virus.
As reported an Australian clinical trial is now underway to determine whether the drug can help prevent the COVID-19 virus. However, there is still insufficient evidence that hydroxychloroquine can be used to combat the pandemic.
Hydroxychloroquine is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria and is also used in the treatment of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. A similar drug chloroquine is, like hydroxychloroquine, derived from the quinoline molecule and is also used to treat various types of malaria.
These drugs have risen to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic following reports that billionaire Clive Palmer bought almost 33 million doses of hydroxychloroquine whilst also taking out full page advertisements stating the drug could “wipe out the virus”.
The President of the United States Donald Trump confirmed this week he is taking hydroxychloroquine to “ward off” COVID-19, despite public health officials warning it may be unsafe.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said that the drugs should not be used to assist in preventing or treating COVID-19.
“It is positive news that this new Australian clinical trial featuring 2,000 frontline healthcare workers is now open for volunteers. It’s one of several trials underway but the evidence-base is simply not there to say that this drug can be used to prevent the COVID-19 virus.
“The results of trials so far have proven inconclusive so let’s just wait to see what emerges from this trial and whether regulatory bodies will eventually give the all clear.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for public health advocates and health professionals across the world. I can’t believe I have to say this but please do not follow the lead of the President of the United States and immediately source hydroxychloroquine to ‘cure’ or ‘prevent’ the COVID-19 virus.
“There is quite simply insufficient evidence that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can ‘cure’ COVID-19. So the drugs should not be provided to patients outside of a formal randomised clinical trial and I also strongly advise against acquiring these drugs on the dark web or anywhere else.
“When prescribing and using any drug we need to rely on sound, scientific evidence and make careful determinations of whether these drugs or any other can help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to exercise extreme caution here. That is one of the reasons why the RACGP supported the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s recent move to place tight new restrictions on who can write prescriptions for these drugs.
“Some studies have also indicated an elevated risk of serious adverse effects like cardiac arrest.”
The RACGP President noted that people sourcing this drug may have unintended consequences for other patients who regularly use it for existing medical conditions.
“Before trying to source this drug consider this simple fact. Off-label use of hydroxychloroquine can have significant consequences for those who are normally prescribed the drug and really need it. If people rush out and acquire hydroxychloroquine patients may not be able access it due to inappropriate use reducing stock levels.
“Let me be 100% clear, we need to ensure there is stock available for those who actually need this drug right now.
“The other problem we have with various ‘cures’ concerning COVID-19 is that it may lull people into a false sense of security. Some people may believe that a cure is imminent and fail to properly exercise social distancing responsibilities.
“Please listen to the medical experts, including your local GP, on how best to handle this pandemic rather than prominent and outspoken advocates of an unproven drug.”
As part of the recently launched Expert Advice Matters campaign the RACGP has been urging all patients to take care of their wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic and listen to the experts for all medical advice.
The campaign advert can be viewed online at: https://youtu.be/xdv-dYMpwmQ