The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use of anti-malaria drugs Chloroquine – and hydroxychloroquine – for the treatment of patients for COVID-19, with Nigerian counterpart asking local drug manufacturers to commence immediate production of the former.
The move by the FDA would make it easier for the drugs to be added to the Strategic National Stockpile, which is US warehouse of emergency medical supplies throughout the country.
However, experts like epidemiologist Rajesh Gandhi, Massachusetts General Hospital’s COVID-19 treatment task force head, says such a move is not the same as approval for use of the drug for treating the novel coronavirus.
“This is not FDA approval of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19,” Gandhi said. “There’s an epidemic of misinformation out there, and we need to combat that.”
The promising use of Chloroquine in treating the COVID-19 has been based on studies in animals, clinical trials and very limited human use.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases in the US, advised caution in the use of unproven drugs while Francois Nosten, director of Shoklo Malaria Research Unit in Thailand, said information is insufficient to ascertain if the drug (or any other ) can be effective in treating patients more widely.
On Monday, Moji Adeyeye, director-general, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) asked Nigerian manufacturers to commence production of Cholorquine citing France and the US as examples of where the clinical trial treatment of COVID-19 using the drug had begun.
“Lagos State will be starting a clinical trial on chloroquine to evaluate the effectiveness,” she said.
NAFDAC, however, emphasised the need for the public to “desist from its use without the guidance of a medical doctor or clinician for cases of clinical trial treatment of COVID-19”. It stressed the drug has side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, blurred vision, headache, and pruritis (itching). Prolonged use can also cause retinopathy or vision impairment.
Nigeria as of early Tuesday had 131 confirmed cases of COVID19 reported in Nigeria with 2 deaths.
The increase followed the announcement of 20 new cases of coronavirus the day before, with 13 cases reported in Lagos, 4 in FCT, 2 in Kaduna and 1 in Oyo State, the NCDC tweeted late evening Monday.
A total lockdown in Lagos and Abuja came into effect 11 pm Monday to allow for contact tracing of 6,000 people at risk of carrying the COVID-19 whilst at the same time slowing the spread of the disease by limiting physical interaction of the public.