Two anti-malaria drugs promoted by Donald Trump as a treatment for the coronavirus are no longer allowed by the US Food and Drug Administration to be used in emergencies.
The ruling means hospitals can no longer reach for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients presenting to emergency departments.
The US health regulator said on Tuesday morning (Australian time) the two drugs were “unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19” as they were “unlikely to produce an antiviral effect”.
The FDA also warned that the drugs had been shown in lab studies to interfere with Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral drug remdesivir – the only medicine to yet show a benefit against COVID-19 in formal clinical trials.
The FDA, therefore, revoked emergency use authorisations for the antimalarial medications. That means they cannot be used outside of a clinical trial.
It comes almost a month after the US President admitted he was taking hydroxychloroquine to ward off the coronavirus. On Tuesday, after the FDA ruling, he dug in.
“I took it and I felt good about taking it. I don’t know if it had an impact, but it certainly didn’t hurt me,” he said.
The FDA ruling also follows several studies of the decades-old malaria pills that suggested they were not effective either in treating or preventing COVID-19.
Earlier in June, British scientists halted a large trial after deciding that hydroxychloroquine was “useless” at treating COVID-19 patients.
“Recent data from a large randomised controlled trial showed no evidence of benefit of HCQ treatment in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 for mortality or other outcomes such as hospital length of stay or need for mechanical ventilation,” it said.
That’s “in light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other serious side effects” associated with the two medications.
Cluster concerns, but Australia faring well
The number of coronavirus cases has been rising in Africa, eastern Europe, central Asia and the Middle East, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation.
“It took more than two months for the first 100,000 cases to be reported. For the past two weeks, more than 100,000 new cases have been reported almost every single day,” he said on Tuesday morning.
Dr Tedros said Beijing had more than 100 cases last week after going more than 50 days without a single infection.
Even in countries that have demonstrated the ability to suppress transmission, countries must stay alert to the possibility of resurgence.’’
Australia is continuing to see new cases of coronavirus, but the states remain confident restrictions can be lifted while basic rules are adhered to.
The country has had 72 new cases in the past week.
Victoria reported 12 cases on Monday, while NSW had three. The remaining states and territories had none.
Only 17 people remain in hospital out of 382 active cases nationwide.
Victoria’s caseload included a second Black Lives Matter protester and a family cluster.
The female BLM protester wore protective equipment and had mild symptoms, making it unlikely she transmitted the virus.
Despite the spike in new infections, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton remained confident about easing the state’s virus measures next week.
Of the three new cases in NSW, two were returned travellers in hotel quarantine. The other was an Illawarra man in his 20s for whom the source of infection is unknown.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reiterated her concerns about a potential second wave of infections and an increase in community transmission cases as restrictions ease.
“Whilst we are doing really well, incredibly well, it won’t last if people relax and if people don’t stick to the rules.”