DETROIT – There have been reports about encouraging signs surrounding potential treatments for the coronavirus (COVID-19) being evaluated by the medical community, but that optimism comes at a price.
The drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have been around for a very long time, and they have important and very well-tested benefits against malaria, as well as auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
What we don’t know is whether they’re effective against COVID-19.
The idea of using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19 came front old test tube research that found them effective against the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus.
More recent research has also found that in a test tube, the drugs were effective against the new SARS-CoV-2 virus, which offered a glimmer of hope for the current outbreak. But that doesn’t mean it will be effective in humans.
Premature enthusiasm about the possible treatment has created problems in the United States.
An Arizona man died when he took chloroquine that was meant to clean his aquarium.
READ -- March 24, 2020: Arizona death prompts warning against self-medication for coronavirus
On Tuesday, poison control centers issued warnings about self-medicating with these drugs. Even the pills meant for people have potentially serious side effects, including heart rhythm abnormalities, anemia and even blindness with long-term use.
Another major problem is that people have started hoarding the medications, creating a short supply for people with auto-immune problems who need them on a regular basis. The problem isn’t only limited to laypeople -- numerous warnings have gone out to physicians that it’s inappropriate to self-prescribe or write prescriptions for family members.