The Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan has strongly advised people against the inappropriate use and hoarding drugs hydrochloroquine and chloroquine to treat or prevent COVID-19.
“There is lack of undisputed scientific evidence and risk of adverse events including that of sudden death,” said the Society in a statement. The drugs should only be used as treatment for COVID-19 under supervision of a medical expert.
Both HCQ and chloroquine are associated with severe adverse effects, including liver damage, bone marrow suppression and risk of sudden death, especially when used with the antibiotic azithromycin and other medicines which affect the heart, the MMIDSP warned. Irreversible blindness can follow long-term unsupervised use of these medicines.
HCQ and chloroquine are widely used antimalarial drugs which are also used to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Both drugs have a new but unapproved role in the treatment of COVID-19 pneumonia. Some people mistakenly believe the medicines can prevent COVID-19 infection.
Published scientific reports and statements have studied the potential usefulness of these drugs as part of treatment regime in critically ill patients. However, no peer-reviewed studies are available to date, said the infectious disease society.
There is also no data on the usefulness of HCQ and chloroquine for prevention of COVID-19 in healthcare workers or exposed household contacts. A randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial is set to start in April, the MMIDSP stated.
MMIDSP says it has a responsibility to provide correct, up-to-date information on the emerging pandemic and its prevention and management. The team consists of qualified infectious diseases physicians, clinical microbiologists and nurses trained in infection prevention and control.