How Hydroxychloroquine Works

04 May
2020
By Marie

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial agent that is currently under study as a possible treatment for the Coronavirus disease. Do not use this medicine to treat COVID-19 symptoms unless your doctor recommends you to do so.

What does Hydroxychloroquine usually treat?

Hydroxychloroquine reduces pain, swelling, and joint stiffness associated with medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. It may take up to twelve weeks before you notice the results. Doctor’s may prescribe it with other drugs to treat the underlying symptoms. The medicine is available as pills that are meant for oral administration.

Being an anti-malarial agent, Hydroxychloroquine treats malaria by destroying the parasites responsible for causing the disease. It is still not understood how the drug works to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus. However, it is believed that the drug affects how the immune system works, which may be helpful in cases of arthritis and lupus. The dose and duration of the treatment depend on what the medication is being used. For malaria prevention, usually, a patient may ask to take 400 mg dose once a week and continue for four weeks. For rheumatoid arthritis, the dose may vary from 200 mg to 400 mg once a day.

Why Hydroxychloroquine being studied in COVID-19?

According to recent studies, Hydroxychloroquine has antiviral properties against SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for causing the Coronavirus disease. The pandemic is currently a dire threat in a way that it’s creating economic destruction across the world.

The expanding pandemic engulfing the work is creating problems for patients with arthritis and lupus worldwide who routinely use the medicine to manage their symptoms. But, over the past few decades, the drug has also attracted the attention of health care experts worldwide as a potential antiviral agent. Currently, it has been studied for the severe respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2, also referred to as SARS-CoV-2. Reports from China suggest that Hydro chloroquine is showing some levels of efficacy in treating the expanding pandemic. Clinical trials in France also found medicine as an effective treatment for COVID-19.

According to studies, the anti-malarial agent works by interfering with the chemical environment of human cell membranes. This blocks the entry of the virus inside the cells. Based on these findings, medical experts in hospitals have begun using Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 positive patients. In the U.S, medical experts have expressed great confidence in the promise of a new COVID-19 treatment. However, there is not enough clinical data at this time to prove that Hydroxychloroquine works to relieve COVID-19 symptoms. The medicine has shown effectiveness against the Coronavirus but has failed to translate the success in clinical trials. The drug is largely failed to decrease viral load in mice during clinical trials for COVID-19.

Despite the absence of strong evidence, some people begun to self medicate with the drug, resulting in disastrous consequences. The medicine can cause some serious side effects if the dose is not carefully controlled. At this time, we should understand that data is still limited.  We need more research to identify the risk and benefits of the medicine against the Coronavirus disease.

However, a study in France reported that COVID-19 positive patients who received a dose of 600 mg had reduced viral load in the body. But when the comparisons being made at different hospitals, it becomes difficult to understand whether the improvement was because of the Hydroxychloroquine pill or other therapies. And 6 out of 26 patients had to stop the treatment because of worsening disease, nausea, leaving the hospital, or death. Six people in the study also received azithromycin, an antibiotic medication in combination with Hydroxychloroquine. These patients had even lower viral load when compared to those who receive Hydroxychloroquine alone. It was noted that 93% of COVID-19 positive people have cleared the virus after eight days. However, more research is required to understand whether the improvements were because of a combination of medications or other factors.

Information about the treatment for a pandemic is rapidly changing. Once more data is available, the given information will be updated.

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