A drug which was endorsed by the US President Donald Trump on several occasions earlier this year as a treatment for COVID-19 has been linked to triggering psychiatric disorders. While many doctors expressed their unwillingness to prescribe or use the medicine for the SARS-CoV-2 patients, many experts continuously forced people to believe in the drug as a cure.
It is none other than chloroquine and a related compound, hydroxychloroquine, which was heavily touted by Trump and many healthcare experts in earlier months of the pandemic. It was reviewed earlier this year by a medical agency of the European Union. It happened because Spain's drug authority notified them about six cases of mental disturbance, linked to the COVID-19 patients who were on high doses of the medicine.
On Friday, November 27, the European Medicines Agency revealed the latest concerns. The agency also recommended that the product information for the drug be updated to warn the healthcare professionals of the psychiatric risks. In a statement, EMA clearly wrote that "A review of all available data...confirmed a link between the use of these medicines and the risk of psychiatric disorders and suicidal behavior".
Usage and Warning
In May this year, Trump said that he had been taking the hydroxychloroquine or HCQ for weeks as a prevention from the Coronavirus infection. He also claimed that the drug, taken with an antibiotic, had the potential to be "one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine".
At that time there were many experts who thought the same and even held a special press conference for that too. One of them also tweeted that "We have just met with Vice President Mike Pence to request the administration's assistance in empowering doctors to prescribe hydroxychloroquine without potential obstruction".
When Trump tested positive for COVID-19 in October, the team of doctors looking after the President did not provide HCQ. Instead, he was treated with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' then-experimental drug and a second antiviral drug, Remdesivir. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization to use the Regeneron to battle against the COVID-19 cases in US hospitals.
In terms of chloroquine and HCQ, both are used to prevent malaria and received approval to treat many autoimmune diseases. After the drug became popular in the first few months of the Coronavirus pandemic, the US government ordered millions of doses of the drug and it was then used in the country's veterans' hospitals, but later FDA warned that the use of HCQ against the COVID-19 is too risky.
There are many studies that showed that the drug has little to no impact on SARS-CoV-2 caused disease, but the researchers found links between the medicine and fatal heart arrhythmia. However, the recent statement from EMA said that neither chloroquine nor HCQ authorized for the treatment of COVID-19. But it also noted that "both medicines have been used as off-label treatment in patients with the disease."
"However, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have not shown any beneficial effects in treating COVID-19 in large randomized clinical trials," added the statement.