The United Kingdom government has started bulk buying hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug reportedly being taken by United States President Donald Trump, as part of trials for treatment of the novel coronavirus.
The Guardian reports that a document was uploaded to the government website on May 15 inviting pharmaceutical companies to supply a variety of drugs for use in a 35 million pound ($42.9 million) trial over the coming months, one of which was hydroxychloroquine, which is also used to treat arthritis, but is currently unproven for COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine is not licensed for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 by the US Food and Drug Administration, or any other agency, and Stephen Griffin from the University of Leeds school of medicine told ITV News:
“the weight of evidence from most recent patient trials shows it to be ineffective, with the potential for adverse side effects including those affecting the heart.”
Studies are taking place in the US, the UK and across Europe into the drug and a similar substance, chloroquine, to see if it might have any impact. Other substances being analyzed in the UK trials include lopinavir-ritonavir, which is used to treat people who are HIV positive.
“All of the drugs being purchased can be used to treat other conditions too so they don’t really go to waste if they aren’t proved effective for COVID-19,” a source familiar with the trials told the Guardian.