Is it safe to take hydroxychloroquine against coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat infection with the new coronavirus is still not considered safe in all cases, and the Ministry of Health of Brazil [1] only allows the use of chloroquine under the guidance of a doctor and in the most severe cases of COVID-19 infection.

In addition, according to the Ministry of Health, chloroquine can only be used in the hospital and for a period of 5 days. During this time, the patient must be hospitalized and under continuous observation to assess the appearance of possible serious side effects, such as heart problems or changes in vision, for example.

According to Anvisa [2] , the purchase of these drugs at the pharmacy continues to be permitted only with prescriptions subject to special control and for patients with malaria, lupus and other diseases that were an indication of these drugs before the COVID-19 pandemic. Self-medication with these or any other type of medication is a dangerous practice that is advised against regardless of the situation, as it can bring serious health consequences and put life at risk.

Why could hydroxychloroquine treat coronavirus?

According to a study carried out in vitro  in China  [3] , it has been shown that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are able to prevent the entry of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in cells, as well as inhibit their transport between cellular organelles, reducing the virus’s ability to multiply.

Likewise, another study carried out in France  [4] , also showed that hydroxychloroquine appears to be able to reduce the viral load in infected people and that, when associated with azithromycin, it can lead to even more promising results.

However, it is important to note that the patient samples used in these studies were quite small and that not all of them obtained positive results with the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Thus, it is necessary to do more investigations and with a larger number of patients, to affirm that these substances are, in fact, effective and safe to treat the new coronavirus.

Since more studies are needed, Anvisa advises against the use of these substances for the treatment of coronavirus and reinforces that, in order to include new therapeutic indications in existing drugs, it is necessary to conduct more clinical studies in a larger sample of patients.

Hydroxychloroquine contraindications

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are contraindicated for any condition that is not directed by a doctor, as they can cause serious side effects such as changes in blood, heart problems and even blindness. Therefore, they should not be used as a form of self-medication to treat or prevent infection by the new coronavirus.

Although hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are already approved for the treatment of some specific conditions, such as malaria, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and certain skin and rheumatological diseases, this does not mean that they are safe to use in the treatment of new diseases, already that studies with new populations are always needed to understand their safety.

In addition to being a risk to the health of those who take the drug without a doctor’s recommendation, it is also a risk for people who may be without this drug for the treatment of other diseases.


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