What is Chloroquine?

What is Chloroquine?

Amy Liu, Staff Writer

As COVID-19 infection rates rise across the country, research on more effective treatment has focused on chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, drugs that may possibly help cure coronavirus patients. However, the range of effects and success that the anti-malarial medications may have on patients is still unclear, and remains subject to test trials.

Chloroquine is an FDA-approved drug that has been used for years to treat malaria, a mosquito-borne illness. The drug was developed by Bayer in 1934, and was first used in World War II to help prevent and treat malaria in soldiers. The drug, along with hydroxychloroquine, are some of the frontrunners for potential coronavirus treatment.

While authorization for drug trials using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are increasing, this isn’t the first time the drugs have been presented as treatment for something other than malaria. Both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have been used in the past to help treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, though neither have been FDA-approved for the purpose. In scientific research after the MERS and SARS outbreaks, chloroquine emerged as one of the drugs with greater promise in fighting against both viruses, which are part of the same family as Covid-19. 

The rationale behind why the anti-malarial drugs may be effective against COVID-19 (which is caused by a virus, rather than a parasite) centers around research that suggests that the drugs can protect cells from coronavirus, which requires entry into cells to induce illness, according to NPR. However, clinical testing of the drugs has been only recently approved in the United States. A nationwide study, headed by University of Minnesota scientist David Boulware, has recently begun trials under FDA approval with hydroxychloroquine. The study intends to measure the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as both a preventative drug and a treatment for those showing mild Covid-19 symptoms.

While research on COVID-19 treatments goes forward, medical professionals and authorities warn that clinical trials are still in very early stages, and that results will take weeks and months to emerge. The public is strictly advised to not take chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine unless doctor-prescribed for its original FDA-approved purpose, as misuse of the drug can cause severe side effects. In recent weeks, an Arizona man died after taking a form of chloroquine used in aquariums, following a small but alarming trend of hospitalizations involving people taking the drugs while mistakenly believing them to be proven effective against COVID-19. As more studies are approved to go forward in the United States, however, the prospects of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatment against COVID-19 are set to grow clearer.