Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) has been the centre of a protracted political debate since March 2020, when President Trump cited the drug as a promising possible treatment for COVID19.
What is HCQ?
Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is considered a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD). It can decrease the pain and swelling of arthritis. It may prevent joint damage and reduce the risk of long-term disability. Hydroxychloroquine is in a class of medications that was first used to prevent and treat malaria. Today, it is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, some symptoms of lupus, childhood arthritis (or juvenile idiopathic arthritis) and other autoimmune diseases. It is believed that hydroxychloroquine interferes with the communication of cells in the immune system.
FDA approved HCQ 65 years ago, WHO calls it an essential medicine. It is also an approved medicine by Medsafe NZ.
The big debate on the effectiveness of HCQ in treating COVID19
One of the drug’s famous critics is Dr Anthony Fauci – the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who is also one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Dr Fauci insists that only randomised controlled trial evidence has any value in evaluating the effectiveness of HCQ in treating COVID19. Randomised controlled trials have been referred to as “the gold standard” of clinical research experiments.
WHO has discontinued the trial’s on HCQ treatment on COVID19 from 4 July 2020 claiming that the interim trial result shows that HCQ produces little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients compared to standard of care. The interim results do not provide solid evidence of increased mortality either
However, Dr Harvey Risch, a noted Yale epidemiologist, claims that HCQ has shown consistently encouraging result in treating COVID19 as long as used properly. Risch also challenges Dr Fauci’s studious position of using “the gold standard” to wage a misinformation campaign against HCQ. Risch said numerous other types of studies have significant practical value in determining effective courses of medical treatment.
Former Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, in an article published on 2017, argued that randomized controlled trials have substantial limitations and that many other data sources can provide valid evidence for clinical and public health action.
Researcher supporting the effectiveness of HCQ on treating COVID19
- India’s top biomedical research body has backed the use of HCQ as a preventive against COVID19 since late May 2020. One report out of India stated that HCQ appeared effective in reducing the virility of the disease, with patients who took larger doses seems less likely to spread it to close contacts.
- Researchers in Brazil said that patients treated with HCQ and azithromycin were less likely to be hospitalised, particularly on the early treatment.
- An open letter by New York doctor Vladimir Zelenko observed very positive results by treating patients with HCQ, of 405 patients only 2 died, 6 hospitalised, 4 intubated.
- A new study published by Henry Ford Health System in Jun 2020, stated that treatment with HCQ cut the death rate significantly in sick patients hospitalised with COVID19 and without hear-related side-effects.
- In a July 16 report, the Korean Society of Infectious Diseases also recommended early administration of HCQ, saying its study findings suggested that “patients confirmed of COVID19 infection should be administered HCQ as soon as possible”.
Early treatment with HCQ: a country-based analysis
Many countries either adopted or declined early treatment with HCQ, effectively forming a large trial with 2 billion people in the treatment group and 663 million in the control group. The treatment group has a 78.7% lower death rate.
New York City council member Paul Vallone: “I couldn’t breathe, very weak, couldn’t get out of bed. My doctor prescribed HCQ. I took it that day and within two or three days I was able to breathe. Within a week I was back on my feet,”
Dr Stephen Smith – the head of the Smith Centre for Infectious Diseases and Urban Health in East Orange New Jersey, told Fox News that “I’ve seen dramatic responses, especially early on. I’ve seen some patients get better really quickly- much more quickly than we expect with an anti-viral agent”.
Michigan state Democrat Rep. Karen Whitsett credited in April her recovery from COVID19 to HCQ.
Why HCQ is under attack?
HCQ is an inexpensive generic medication. Unlike certain profit-generating, patented medications, HCQ has no natural financial constituency. No one will get rich from it.
So far billions of money have been spent by big pharma to develop new drugs and vaccinations to cope with COVID19 crisis. One-third of funding to FDA comes from drug companies.
HCQ is the game-changer for New Zealand
If New Zealand allows HCQ to be a non-prescription drug and makes it available for kiwis to purchase over the counter, it could be the real game-changer for New Zealand to go through the Covid19 crisis. New Zealand is now experiencing the 2nd wave of Covid19. The situation can turn into Victoria-state-like chaos if quarantine process does not work. The possibility of having a third and fourth wave is always there before an effective vaccination is approved by relevant medical authorities. HCQ will help New Zealanders to be front foot to cope with COVID19.