Pharmacy body warns against using anti-malaria drugs to curb Covid-19

SAPC Media Statement: 

Misuse of chloroquine, azithromycin and lopinavir-ritonavir for the prevention and/or potential treatment of Covid-19

The South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) is, in line with the position statement issued by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) this morning, advising pharmacy professionals against the dispensing of chloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19. Chloroquine is registered by SAHPRA as a Schedule 2 medicine for prophylaxis of malaria and as Schedule 4 in the treatment of malaria in South Africa.

There is a growing panic-fuelled bulk stocking by members of the public of chloroquine, azithromycin, and lopinavir-ritonavir for the prevention and/or treatment of Covid-19.

Currently, there is limited scientific evidence that these medicines may limit the transmission of Covid-19 to other people.

Since these medicines are not registered for the management of Covid-19, pharmacy professionals should refrain from selling/dispensing these products to patients without a prescription. The SAPC reminds pharmacy professionals the following:

  • Azithromycin should only be dispensed on a valid prescription
  • Lopinavir-ritonavir should only be dispensed on a valid prescription
  • Chloroquine must be sold or dispensed in terms of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, and related regulations, and all records of dispensed items must be kept.

TA Masango, SAPC Registrar/CEO

Nigeria reports chloroquine poisonings after Trump praised drug

By Alonso Soto

(Bloomberg) – Nigeria reported two cases of chloroquine poisoning after US President Donald Trump praised the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the novel coronavirus.

Health officials are warning Nigerians against self-medicating after demand for the drug surged in Lagos, a city that’s home to 20 million people. Two people were hospitalised in Lagos for chloroquine overdoses, Oreoluwa Finnih, senior health assistant to the governor of Lagos, said in an interview.

“Please don’t panic,” she said via text message. “Chloroquine is still in a testing phase in combination with other medication and not yet verified as a preventive treatment or curative option.”

Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control warned that the World Health Organisation hasn’t approved use of the drug against the virus. Africa’s most populous country reported 22 infections as of Saturday.

Trump said last week that chloroquine and its less-toxic cousin hydroxychloroquine had shown “tremendous promise” to treat the new illness.The president doubled down on Saturday, telling his Twitter followers that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin “taken together” could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” He urged they “be put in use IMMEDIATELY.”

Trump also retweeted an online post about a small study of 26 patients that showed success in eradicating the new coronavirus when the two drugs were taken together. Some hospitals have already begun stockpiling hydroxychloroquine, and medical institutions are gearing up to conduct further studies. In the meantime, experts say using the drug and its cousin chloroquine to treat Covid-19 isn’t backed by enough scientific evidence.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved the antimalarials to treat Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

While chloroquine is no longer used to treat malaria in Africa, some pharmacies still stock it for patients who are resistant to other anti-malaria drugs.