Drug maker Amneal Pharmaceuticals is donating 400.00 tablets of the unproven malaria drug that President Donald Trump called a “ gift from God ” to Louisiana to help combat the state’s coronavirus crisis, state attorney general said Tuesday.
The drug, hydroxychloroquine, received FDA approval on Monday, and the Trump administration plans to distribute millions of doses for experimental use in coronavirus patients.
It has shown promise in countries like China, South Korea, and France to treat COVID-19, but the U.S. coronavirus team and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci have warned that the evidence that it works is only “anecdotal.”
U.S. trials of hydroxychloroquine are underway in New York and Minnesota and will now begin at Tulane University, Louisiana, a move that Attorney General Jeff Landry called “a move toward seeking treatments and cures for this epidemic “.
Amneal donates 400,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil by Sanofi, to Louisiana in hopes that the drug will help fight coronavirus there
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced the donation to Louisiana calling it “a step” in the fight against the impact of the coronavirus on his state
“At the moment there are no silver bullets. We must remain vigilant against this virus. ‘
Louisiana has been particularly hard hit by the corona virus.
More than 4,000 people have been infected and 185 have died.
At least 28 nursing homes across the state have reported clusters of the disease, and approximately 1,480 people in New Orleans are ill.
Louisiana has a large population with multiple chronic conditions and is considered part of both the stroke belt and the diabetes belt by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Both heart conditions – such as those that lead to stroke – and diabetes are underlying health problems that put people at greater risk of contracting coronavirus and becoming life-threateningly ill from the virus, as well as obesity.
And Louisiana is the nation’s third most obese state (leaving behind only Iowa and Alabama), with over a third of the population having a BMI of 30 or higher.
Hundreds of people in Louisiana have already been hospitalized with coronavirus.
Currently, there are no proven treatments for the virus, and the most severely ill patients should receive respirators to let them breathe while the infection attacks their lungs.
The state has shut down its drive through testing and over 4,000 in the state have coronavirus
The number of deaths from the US coronavirus has risen above 3,000. Doctors hope that hydroxychloroquine can help save the sickest COVID-19 patients
Nearly 200 people in Louisiana have died from coronavirus and clusters have formed in nursing homes
The hope for the Trump administration and doctors is that hydroxychloroquine can fight the dangerous pneumonia caused by coronavirus pneumonia and relieve some of the pressure on health systems from a lack of fans.
At the request of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state was the first to receive doses of hydroxychloroquine from the federal government, and clinical trials with the drug began there last week.
Amneal does not make The Market Watch list of the top 10 manufacturers of the drug, but the company has nonetheless donated a significant amount of the medication to Louisiana, where a shortage of hospital beds is expected in the coming weeks, particularly in New Orleans.
Some companies that make hydroxychloroquine reported deficiencies last week, after Trump hailed it as a possible game changer in the coronavirus pandemic.
It is also a treatment for inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and patients have complained that they struggled to get their medications.
Still, Amneal has dedicated part of his inventory to the state of Louisiana.
“On behalf of Louisiana, I want to thank Amneal for this generous gift,” said Landry.
“It is important that we all work together to resolve the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis. We must come together as Louisians and as Americans.
“This donation from Amneal demonstrates their great efforts to be a good corporate citizen in our nation.”
He added that social distance still needs to be practiced to keep the spread of the disease at bay.
Louisiana has emerged as a hot spot for coronavirus, although cases have now been diagnosed in every state of the country
HOW THE ANTI-MALARIA DRUG IS USED ABROAD TO TREAT CORONAVIRUS
A version of the drug that the US is now testing, chloronoquine, is already part of the recommended treatment in China.
It is one of the five antivirals included in the 7th edition of the country guideline for the care of coronavirus patients.
Scientists there have reported that it relieved symptoms, shortened the duration of the disease, and patients who take it seem to break their fever earlier.
Chloroquine is also widely used in South Korea, where officials have gone so far as to say that it has “a certain healing effect” and “fairly good efficacy” in coronavirus patients.
The World Health Organization has also launched a large-scale trial of a number of potential coronavirus treatments, including chloroquine.
It will be tested on patients in Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand and perhaps others. The US is not on the list for inclusion.
The drug has already been tested in 36 patients in France.
Hydroxychloroquine, the form of the drug that will now be used “compassionately” in the US, was given to 24 of the 36 subjects. Half of them completely cured the infection, according to an early announcement of the results on Wednesday.
Amneal co-CEOs, Chirag and Chintu Patel, said, “We are working urgently to help the hardest hit states and hospitals across the country to help as many patients as possible at this critical time.”
In fact, the COVID-19 task force in South Korea went so far as studies on the drug showed that it had “some curative effect” and “fairly good efficacy.”
Patients treated with hydroxychloroquine improved faster and were more likely to break their fever than those who did not receive the drug.
The drug is also included in China’s treatment guidelines for COVID-19 – described there as ‘chloroquinephosphate’ – for use in patients aged between 18 and 65.
It is one of the five antivirals proposed in the 7th edition of China’s treatment plan, which also warns that the drug should not be given to patients with heart disease, because it has potential cardiac side effects.
After promising test results in petri dish studies, some Chinese scientists came to believe that hydroxychloroquine was powerful against viruses in general and for COVID-19 in particular.
“Previous studies have shown that chloroquinephosphate (chloroquine) had a wide range of antiviral effects, including anticoronavirus,” scientists from China’s Guangdong Province wrote.
“Here we found that treating the patients diagnosed with new coronavirus pneumonia with chloroquine could improve treatment success rates, shorten hospital stays, and improve patient outcomes.”
Developed during World War II and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1955, hydroxychloroquine cured about half of the 24 patients who received the drug (36 of them included) in a French clinical study published yesterday.
Landry warned that social distance is still necessary. Mega churches in Louisiana continue to hold personal services. Pictured: A demonstrator is outside in protective gear as the congregation arrives at the Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana (file)
It was the first clinical trial of the drug to treat COVID-19 after Chinese scientists discovered it killed the virus in laboratory experiments, according to a study published March 9 in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal.
US patients with ‘mild’ coronavirus disease are currently being recruited into a hydroxychloroquine trial (sold under the brand name Plaquenil) to be tested for the effects of another pair of antivirals posted to clincaltrials.gov last week.
Hydroxychloroquine is also used in some cases to treat some types of arthritis.
When it was released half a century ago, the malaria drug was praised for having milder side effects than its predecessor.
But the side effects still shouldn’t be dismissed.
If used for a long time, treatment can irreversibly damage the retina, as signaled by problems with focusing, streaks of light in the patient’s eyesight, and puffy eyes or color changes.
The side effects can even be deadly.
The drug can cause strange, bad and vivid dreams and sleep problems.
Using hydrochloronoquine can also cause your heart to beat faster, causing headaches, fainting, severe dizziness, nausea, slow heart rate or weak pulse, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling, anxiety and irritability, and low blood count.
But with the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. near 200, even a drug with significant side effects would give hope in the fight against the coronavirus, for which there are currently no proven treatments.
Since it’s already on the market and has been FDA approved for other uses, hydroxychloroquine can be used off-label more easily.