FDA gives emergency approval to use anti-malaria drugs to fight coronavirus

Agency action gives doctors more latitude to use chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.

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hydroxychloroquine
Tablets containing hydroxychloroquine
(GERARD JULIEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Last Updated:
March 30, 2020 - 12:17am

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The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday gave doctors emergency permission to use the anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat the coronavirus.

The agency's action allows the medicines "to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible," according to a Department of Health and Human Services statement.

"Although there are no currently approved treatments for COVID-19, both drugs have shown activity in laboratory studies against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Clinical trials are needed to provide scientific evidence that these treatments are effective," HHS said in making the announcement.

Officials also announced that two drugmakers, Sandoz and Bayer, had donated 31 million doses of the two medicines to the government's emergency stockpile to be used by doctors.

Medical research dating to 2003 has suggested the two drugs might be helpful in fighting coronavirus symptoms, and President Trump as well as several foreign allies have promoted their use as a potential break-though. But the medical community never completed formal clinical trials, which only began in recent weeks and will take months to complete.