The coronavirus pandemic is still spreading at an alarming rate and is taking the lives of hundreds of people while countries scramble to keep their citizens safe until a treatment arrives, and hopefully, it's this old malaria treatment drug developed over 50 years ago.
Can an old malaria treatment drug help us?
According to Forbes, the old malaria drug is known as hydroxychloroquine and sold under the brand name Plaquenil, was found to be effective in killing the virus based on laboratory experiments.
The results have been published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal on Mar. 9.
The authors who were primarily from the Chinese Academy of Sciences located in Wuhan wrote in a letter published in Cell Discovery: "(W)e predict that the drug has a good potential to combat the disease."
Another study shows promising results for the treatment
Besides the study's authors, French physician-researchers also worked with the drug hydroxychloroquine, and have reportedly finished a "largely successful" clinical trial to treat patients confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease brought by the novel coronavirus.
The researchers, led by an infectious disease expert from l'Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire located in Marseille, Didier Raoult, enrolled a total of 36 patients, including 16 infected controls and 20 treated individuals.
The treated group was then given a 600mg Plaquenil each day, and on the third day, 50% of the group has already tested negative from the virus. Six of the five patients from the group were given a combination of hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic known as azithromycin.
By the sixth day, 70% of the group was already treated, including the sixth patient who was given both the anti-malaria drug and antibiotic combo.
"Despite its small sample size our survey shows that hydroxychloroquine treatment is significantly associated with viral load reduction/disappearance in COVID-19 patients and its effect is reinforced by azithromycin," the study, which was published on Wednesday as per the New York Post, concluded.
Are we short in hydroxychloroquine supply?
Due to the promising effects of hydroxychloroquine, President Trump touted the old malaria drug, although he was immediately corrected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), saying that it's only available for "compassionate use" for now.
However, it appears that people believed the president and now the drug is already in short supply based on Reuter's report.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) plans to add hydroxychloroquine to their list of shortages, according to the senior director of drug information at the University of Utah Health, Erin Fox.
Fox also works with the ASHP and maintains its shortage list.
Meanwhile, the FDA is yet to comment on the shortage, especially as it's not on their list of medicines that are lacking.
Besides the old malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine, Gilead Science's Remdesivir is also getting a second look by experts as a potential cure against COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic is still steadily causing chaos around the world, especially in worst-hit countries like Italy and China, and with a growing rate of confirmed cases in the United States.
Everyone is encouraged to stay indoors unless necessary and to wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap to avoid contracting the coronavirus disease.