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Warning Issued About Anti-Malaria Drugs Touted For Use Against COVID-19

Associated Press
A bottle of hydroxychloroquine is displayed on a table outside The Resort at Texas City nursing home Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Texas City, Texas.

The Texas Department of Health Services recently shipped an unproven treatment for coronavirus to at least 70 hospitals across the state. Doctors there think hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine might work. But the North Texas Poison Center at Parkland Hospital is concerned some people may try to use them without medical supervision.

Dr. Anelle Menendez, a coordinator with the center, talked with Vital Signs host Sam Baker about the drugs.  


Uses for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine

They are commonly used in the prophylactic treatment of malaria and, also, to treat it as well. Some other uses nowadays also include autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Any benefits to COVID-19 patients?

The FDA authorized it March 28 as an emergency use for the treatment of COVID-19 under certain conditions. There is only anecdotal, no proven data yet that it works. A lot more research needs to be completed before this can become the actual first line treatment for the virus.

Why the poison center issued an alert warning about the drugs

When used properly and under medical care and at the right dosage, it may very well work, but the problem comes in when you have the public trying to take this in their homes at dosages without any medical care. And that's where we're concerned. Just because you can die from this within one to two hours.

Dangers of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine

  • When you overdose on this medication, if you take enough, it can be lethal and cause life threatening symptoms within one to two hours of ingesting it.
  • It will cause seizures, cardiac and respiratory arrest coma.
  • It's a very harsh drug, especially to children. It can be life threatening even in one pill for that child.


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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.