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Hydroxychloroquine: From Miracle Drug to Controversy

Aug 23, 2021
By
Cardiologist, Gracie Square Hospital

It is ironic to see a malaria treatment trending on Google, but sadly this was reality. This was ultimately a result of misinformation; a result of President Donald Trump promoting Hydroxychloroquine as a miracle drug to treat COVID-19. However, this drug used to treat very specific cases is not the answer to curing or preventing COVID-19, in fact the confusion it created amongst the public created dreadful consequences.

At this point even mentioning ‘hydroxychloroquine’ on social media platforms, could get you banned. This malaria drug touted as a treatment for COVID-19, went from miracle to controversy in the blink of an eye. But what is this medication all about, what are its components, where and when is it used, and can it be repurposed?

What is Hydroxychloroquine?

To see beyond the controversy, there are a few facts about Hydroxychloroquine that people interested in this medication should know:

·        It is sold under the name Plaquenil in the US

·        There is a generic version

·        Patients in the US must have a prescription to acquire it

·        The chemical name for its compound is Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate

·        Its chemical formula is C18H28ClN3O5S

·        Hydroxychloroquine was approved for medical use in the US in 1955

·        It is taken orally via pills

·        Hydroxychloroquine is also known as HCQ

What is Hydroxychloroquine Used For?

Hydroxychloroquine is a very well-known medication. It has been in use for over 65 years and there are extensive studies on its benefits as well as its side-effects. Here are some of its uses:

·        Hydroxychloroquine is mainly used as an anti-malarial drug

·        It works to prevent and treat malaria in areas where this disease is still susceptible to chloroquine

·        There are some other uses for HCQ, which are not as well-known because they are more uncommon

·        Doctors can also use it to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and porphyria cutanea tarda – a disease in which patients are heme-deficient

·        Rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy is treated with Hydroxychloroquine in many cases, despite the risks

There are established treatments involving this medication and the ailments above. Doctors understand the dosage they need in each case and when to prescribe it.

Hydroxychloroquine Side Effects

Using Hydroxychloroquine out of your own volition, without having a deep understanding of your condition, the drug, and its side effects, is irresponsible. You should always consult your doctor before you take prescription medicine, especially when it comes to this anti-malarial medication.

Its side effects can be strong and in some cases they could lead to long-term damage or even death. Hydroxychloroquine side effects include:

·        Vomiting

·        Headaches

·        Muscle weakness

·        Allergic reactions leading to more dangerous side effects

·        Vision impairment

·        Heart problems

Can Hydroxychloroquine be Repurposed?

Side effects notwithstanding, Hydroxychloroquine is quite a versatile medication. It is also relatively cheap, coming in at around $2.5 USD per 200mg tablet. This, together with a long clinical history, makes HCQ aprime candidate for repurposing.

Hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19

Early during the pandemic, Hydroxychloroquine was thought to be a promising treatment for Covid-19. Former president Trump even touted HCQ as “extremely successful” in the treatment of corona virus.  

Subsequent testing and trials have shown that Hydroxychloroquine might not be the miracle drug many expected it to be for people who are sick with Covid-19. Most studies have shown little hope that this medication could be repurposed to treat this disease either by itself, or in combination with other medication.

Nevertheless, many still believe that it is a viable option to treat corona virus infections. Therefore, social media censors the promotion of HCQ as a viable treatment for Covid-19.

HCQ Use Grounded in Tradition

It is possible that those who believed HCQ could be repurposed to treat corona virus patients, were looking at one of the key components of this medication: quinine. This compound has been known to humans for centuries.

The first documented uses of quinine come from the 17thcentury in Peru. Local tribes extracted the compound from the bark of the Cinchona tree and used it to treat fever as well as other ailments.

A whole family of medication came from this particular compound from traditional medicine that tribes in South American forests used. Thanks to German chemists, the use of quinine evolved and Hydroxychloroquine was eventually developed.

No, you Cannot Buy Quinine Without a Prescription in the US Either

For those of you who are still thinking about over-the-counter alternatives to HCQ that contain a version of the compound those ancient tribes used in South America, you will find that a prescription is still required. The FDA recently imposed a prescription requirement for quinine.

Many people who used it for joint pain or cramps as an over-the-counter medication, now need to consult their doctor and get a prescription. This is due to some blood disorders that patients could develop if they use quinine.

Smaller amounts of this compound are found in tonic water, but they have no significant effects in low concentrations. So, drinking a lot of tonic water will not help you either.

Ask Your Doctor!

If you are still interested in taking HCQ or quinine for any of your conditions, you should ask your doctor here at Antidote.ai. We will be able to guide you and talk with you further about the benefits and misconceptions related to Hydroxychloroquine.  

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