Malaria drug could be effective in novel coronavirus treatment

March 19, 2020

Early research indicates that the malaria drug chloroquine, which was first approved by the FDA in the 1950s, might be effective in treating the novel coronavirus.

Laboratory studies show chloroquine is effective at preventing as well as treating the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, a close cousin of COVID-19. French researchers published a paper on Feb. 15 in the journal ScienceDirect sharing their findings.

Researchers are also exploring whether chloroquine could be used prophylactically -- that is, to prevent infection before it occurs

Elon Musk recently tweeted that it "might be worth considering chloroquine" for COVID-19 as well.

While Trump recently stated that the antimalarial drug had shown “very encouraging early results” treating COVID-19 and will be rolled out “almost immediately” to help fight the growing outbreak, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn quickly cautioned that chloroquine had not yet been approved for treating COVID-19.

“We want to launch a large clinical trial using malaria drug chloroquine for treatment of COVID-19,” said Hahn. “Again, we want to do that in a setting of a clinical trial.”

More than a dozen generic drugmakers, including Teva, Mylan and Sandoz manufacture chloroquine, also called hydroxychloroquine. Bayer says it has donated three million tablets of Resochin, a chloroquine product, to the U.S., seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA. Mylan has restarted production of hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets at its West Virginia manufacturing plant to meet the potential for increased demand. Mylan's hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets are approved by the FDA for the treatment of malaria, lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Mylan says they can begin supplying product by mid-April, and with the API they currently have available, will be able to ramp up manufacturing to provide 50 million tablets to potentially treat a total of more than 1.5 million patients