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Debunked: No, there is not enough evidence that a malaria drug and an antibiotic can lead to a quick recovery from Covid-19

Donald Trump has said this combination could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine”.


A POST SHARED on Facebook has claimed that a malaria medication and an antibiotic can lead to “100 percent recovery in 12 hours” from Covid-19. 

Hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat and prevent malaria, is being trialed as a treatment for the coronavirus, but trials are still ongoing and not enough conclusive results have yet been published.

The Facebook post claims that this drug and ‘zpac’, otherwise known as the antibiotic Azithromycin, would help lead a patient to full recovery from the disease in 12 hours. 

US President Donald Trump has also touted his approval of hydroxychloroquine, but it is untrue to say that either this drug or the antibiotic can lead to such a quick and total recovery from Covid-19 at this stage. 

There are some clinical trials on the go at the moment focusing on these treatment options, but the studies are not conclusive enough as of now to back up this post. 

The details

Here is the full claim:

fake post hydroxy thing Facebook post about hydroxychloroquine. Source: Facebook

This particular post, which echoes other posts shared on Facebook, has been shared 144 times and it was published on 11 April. 

It says that hydroxychloroquine used with the antibiotic showed 100 percent recovery in 12 hours in Covid-19 patients in countries like Germany, Italy, France and Spain. 

The post asks why Irish media is not reporting this, and responds that it is because the drug costs 10 cent a tablet while vaccines “are thousands a shot maybe”. 


Hydroxychloroquine is a drug used to treat and prevent malaria. It is one of a few different drugs currently in clinical trials as potential ways to treat Covid-19. It has been used in some countries already to treat Covid-19 patients, with some promising, albeit extremely early, results.

The drug is also used to manage and minimise symptoms of inflammatory immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. 

Reports of this drug being used to treat Covid-19 patients are often anecdotal and not enough formal clinical trialing has been completed to back up the claim posted on Facebook.

Immunologist and Trinity College Dublin Professor, Luke O’Neill, told TheJournal.ie that this claim “sounds like complete nonsense”. 

O’Neill said that although hydroxychloroquine has shown evidence of being able to kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, testing on the drug continued to be a “work in progress”. 

He said results from some clinical trials on the drug’s treatment of Covid-19 should be published “very soon”.

We should be weeks away from a definitive opinion on this drug being released.

The drug has shown promise against the Covid-19 illness in early studies in France and China. In laboratory tests, hydroxychloroquine can prevent the coronavirus from attaching to and entering cells.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top medical advisor to the US government, has cautioned that the small number of studies carried out so far amount to “anecdotal” evidence, and said the drugs are not without their risks.

About 1% of people who use this drug are at high risk of blackouts, seizure or even sudden death from cardiac arrest because of heart rhythm issues they may themselves be unaware of, Michael Ackerman, a genetic cardiologist at Mayo Clinic has said.

Luke O’Neill said some trials are now monitoring the heart as part of trials on hydroxychloroquine. 

“Covid-19 can cause damage to the heart, so the worry is that it’ll be a double whammy,” he said of these potential risks.  

Clinical trials 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US said last week that it had started clinical trials to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of using hydroxychloroquine to treat adults hospitalised with Covid-19. 

Dr James P Kiley, who works at one of the institutes where the drug is being trialed, said hydroxychloroquine “showed promise in a lab setting” against the coronavirus.   

“Preliminary reports suggest potential efficacy in small studies with patients. However, we really need clinical trial data to determine whether hydroxychloroquine is effective and safe in treating Covid-19,” he said in a statement.

According to the NIH, in a number of studies the drug has demonstrated antiviral activity, an ability to modify the activity of the immune system and it has an established safety profile at appropriate doses.

This has led to the hypothesis that it may also be useful in the treatment of Covid-19.  However, there is still not enough evidence to say for sure that it definitely is. 

A doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre who is leading the trial, Wesley Self, said many US hospitals are using this drug to treat people hospitalised with Covid-19 “despite extremely limited clinical data supporting its effectiveness”. 

“Thus, data on hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19 are urgently needed to inform clinical practice,” Self said. 

A large clinical trial into this drug has also been going in the UK, the Department of Health in the UK confirmed earlier this month.  

In terms of the cost of hydroxychloroquine, it is understood to be very inexpensive, around the same price as Ibuprofen. In the UK, Lloyd’s Pharmacy listed a private prescription cost of 13 pence (15 cent) for one tablet of the drug.  

Going forward

Last month, Anthony Fauci told US news channel CBS: “In terms of science, I don’t think we can definitively say [hydroxychloroquine] works.”

“The data are really just at best suggestive. There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there’s no effect.”

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly talked about the potential of the drug. He tweeted that hydroxychloroquine plus an antibiotic could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” and should “be put in use immediately”. 

However, Professor Luke O’Neill said there will need to be more trustworthy and rigorous clinical trials published on hydroxychloroquine before further decisions are made on its use for Covid-19. 

“We can’t let standards slip. Science has standards,” he said. 

O’Neill said he would “love to see the data” behind the claim on the Facebook post.

“That would be a miracle.”



There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 


Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie  

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