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Trump speaks during press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House.
Trump speaks during press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House.
Image: Evan Vucci/PA Images

Donald Trump says treatment 'is not gonna kill anybody' as US fast-tracks use of anti-malarial drug for coronavirus

US President Donald Trump made the announcement this afternoon.
Mar 19th 2020, 4:30 PM 63,614 101

THE US IS fast-tracking anti-malarial drug chloroquine for use as a treatment against the new coronavirus, President Donald Trump said this afternoon.

“We’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately, and that’s where the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has been so great,” Trump told reporters.

“They’ve gone through the approval process — it’s been approved. They took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription.”

Chloroquine is the synthetic form of quinine and is used to treat malaria and it’s believed that it may have some properties that fight the virus.

“This is a common malaria drug, it’s also a drug used for strong arthritis, if somebody has pretty serious arthritis. But it is known as a malaria drug and it’s been around for a long time and it’s very powerful, ” Trump said. 

“The nice thing is it’s been around for a long time so if things don’t go as planned then it’s not gonna kill anybody, if you go with a new drug you don’t know that that’s gonna happen, ” Trump added. 

But despite Trump saying the drug has been approved for use against coronavirus, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said that this was not the case. 

Hahn indicated that, while the drug has not yet been formally approved, access to it was being expanded so that authorities could gather more data.

This is known as “compassionate use.”

“If there is an experimental drug that is potentially available, a doctor could ask for that drug to be used in a patient. We have criteria for that and very speedy approval for that,” said Hahn.

As an example, many Americans have read studies and heard media reports about this drug chloroquine, which is an anti-malarial drug. It’s already approved, as the president said, for the treatment of malaria as well as an arthritis condition.

Pharmaceutical and research labs across the world are racing to find vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus Covid-19, using a variety of different technologies.

Treatment could come sooner than a vaccine, with antiviral drug remdesivir – which was originally developed by Gilead Sciences as a treatment for Ebola virus – showing early promise and already being used on an ad-hoc basis before regulatory approval in the EU.

It is believed a viable vaccine that can be tested and scaled up for widespread use could be between a year to 18 months away.  

At today’s briefing, Trump referred to Covid-19 as “the Chinese virus” and said that “clinical trials are underway for many therapies”.

With reporting by © – AFP 2020 

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Rónán Duffy

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