COVID-19: Amid Global Controversy, Greece Moves Forward With Chloroquine

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 20, 2020 a bottle and pills of Hydroxychloroquine sit on a counter at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah. GEORGE FREY / AFP

 

Seemingly unaffected by the controversy in the global scientific community, Greece has resumed production of chloroquine to treat cases of coronavirus and is conducting clinical trials with a “calm and distant approach”, scientists there say.

Chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, and hydroxychloroquine, a related compound normally used to treat arthritis, have been among the most high-profile drugs being tested for use against COVID-19.

But last week a major UK trial run by Oxford University halted its tests of the drugs, saying there was no evidence they worked against the new coronavirus in hospitalised patients.

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The move came just after the World Health Organization (WHO) resumed its own trials after briefly suspending them in response to a now-retracted study in The Lancet.

But the ongoing debate over the drugs has had little impact in Greece, where epidemiologists consider chloroquine effective, especially in the early stages of COVID-19.

– Renewed licence –

Evangelia Sakellariou, a chemist responsible for quality control in a laboratory in the Athens suburb of Nea Kifissia, was one of the first scientists to have tested the chloroquine tablets used in Greek hospitals.

As the scale of the pandemic became apparent earlier this year, the company Uni-Pharma moved quickly to renew an old manufacturing licence for the drug, which was exported to Africa in the 1990s for the treatment of malaria.

The licence was reactivated in March, just days before Greece closed its borders to contain the spread of the virus, Spyros Kintzios, Uni-Pharma’s development director, told AFP.

Five tonnes of raw material were imported from India and the laboratory went into “high-alert”, Sakellariou said.

“On the weekend of March 21 we were working constantly, we were under pressure and in 30 hours we produced 24 million doses, which were then offered to the Greek national health system,” she said of the pills, made under the brand name Unikinon.

“When I saw the first tablets, I felt relieved and happy to have made this effort for a good cause,” Sakellariou added.

At the time, there were only six coronavirus deaths and 464 recorded infections in Greece. The country has remained one of the least affected in Europe, with 182 deaths and under 3,000 official cases so far.

Against a backdrop of international competition, “the resumption of chloroquine production in Greece has had a positive effect on local industry, whose exports have increased in recent years,” said Markos Ollandezos, president of the Panhellenic Union of the Pharmaceutical Industry.

The Greek industry is mainly specialised in the manufacture of generic drugs and some commonly used medicines.

– ‘We wait and see’ –

The debate on chloroquine in other countries has not affected its use in Greece, where it has been administered to hospitalised patients in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin.

In April, the Athens Medical University started a study on “the activity of chloroquine phosphate in patients with SARS-CoV-2 virus infection”, to test how the drug could prevent or improve symptoms of pneumonia.

There has been little debate on treatment in the country because coronavirus has caused so few deaths, said Ollandezos.

“People in Greece — the public, healthcare professionals, people within institutional roles — they maintain a very calm and distant approach to chloroquine,” said Kintzios at Uni-Pharma.

“So the idea is that we wait and see, we wait for the results,” he said.

Globally, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have been swept up in a politically charged debate amid the pandemic, with hydroxychloroquine endorsed by public figures including US President Donald Trump.

At a press conference in May, Greek health ministry spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras said “chloroquine’s action is still contested”.

Last week’s retraction of the Lancet study — which had found the drugs had no benefit in treating coronavirus, and even increased the likelihood of patients dying in hospital — rocked public opinion and the scientific community.

However, the manufacture of both medications has continued in many countries in Europe.

France’s Sanofi produces hydroxychloroquine sulfate at a site in Hungary. The drug itself, under the brand name Plaquenil, is manufactured at two large production sites in Spain and France.

Plaquenil is exported to several countries where hydroxychloroquine is not produced, such as Greece, Poland and Estonia.

In Bulgaria, chloroquine from the state laboratory Bul Bio is used for treating COVID-19 patients.

Poland, which also authorises its use, is considered a major producer of chloroquine with company Adamed producing it under the name Arechin.

Questioned by AFP, a Hungarian government spokesman stressed that the drug was not administered to new patients but only to those who have already started treatment.

AFP

‘I Have No Apology’: Bauchi Governor Defends Directive On Chloroquine Use

Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, addressing reporters in Bauchi on May 6, 2020.

 

 

Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, has defended his position on the use of chloroquine and Zithromax to treat coronavirus (COVID-19) patients in the state.

He insisted that he has no regret for his comments, despite the objection by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) that it has approved the use of any drug for the treatment of the disease.

“I have no apology for saying that I used chloroquine, Zithromax, zinc, and vitamin c to get cured, but Allah cured me,” the governor told reporters on Wednesday in Bauchi.

He added, “I was a COVID-19 patient. I told the world and I have been asked how did I get cured?

“And I told you how I got cured and I recommended that should be done, it is not the recommendation of the committee (on COVID-19).”

 

Mohammed, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is the first governor to test positive for COVID-19 and recovered two weeks later.

He insisted that the drugs have worked for him, stressing that there was no harm if they were used to treat other patients.

Although he believes the combination is working in Bauchi since no casualty has been recorded, the governor advises the residents not to get involved in self-medication.

He said, “To me, it is better you take something rather than sit down and die – we have not recorded any death in Bauchi and I still maintain that.

“That one that died came after the test and you can see that we have 80 patients and by the grace of God, Allah will heal our patients.”

As of 12:01am on May 7, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Bauchi has 83 cases of COVID-19 with 77 active and six patients discharged.

Bauchi Governor Mandates Use Of Chloroquine To Treat COVID-19

(FILE) Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed.

 

Bauchi state Governor, Bala Muhammed has mandated the use of chloroquine and Zithromax to treat coronavirus patients in the state.

The Governor, in a briefing on Wednesday, said he accepts responsibility for the consequences that may result from the use of the drugs.

Chloroquine, and a related derivative, hydroxychloroquine, have gained attention for the treatment of the deadly coronavirus, but the World Health Organization (WHO) says there’s no definitive evidence they work

Governor Muhammed said, from personal experience, he believes the drugs are effective and advised health personnel to ignore warnings from health experts abroad.

Muhammed was Bauchi’s index COVID-19 patient but has fully recovered after treatment.

French Armed Forces Buy Chloroquine From China As ‘Precaution’

File Photo of a gunman, posing for a portrait on an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) of the French Army during the Barkhane operation in northern Burkina Faso on November 12, 2019.
MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

 

France’s armed forces ministry on Friday said it had bought a consignment of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine from China as a precaution in case it becomes an approved medication for the coronavirus, an idea dismissed by many experts.

The ministry made the statement following a viral video on social media showing packages marked as chloroquine destined for the French army.

“Against the background of strong tensions in the provisioning of pharmaceutical materials, the armed forces ministry carried out a purchase as a precaution,” it said, confirming that the purchase had been from China.

It said the purchased drug would be ready “if ever chloroquine is authorised by the health authorities as useful for fighting against COVID-19,” it added.

There has been impassioned debate in France on the effectiveness of chloroquine in treating the coronavirus, a cause championed by Professor Didier Raoult, a prominent but controversial Marseille-based doctor.

President Donald Trump has also backed the idea. But France has only authorised its use for treating the gravest virus cases and a recent US study linked chloroquine to a higher death rate.

In the video on social media, a voice can be saying that the consignment amounts to 70 kilogrammes and was destined for the army’s central pharmacy. The ministry, however, could not confirm how much of the substance was imported.

Four French soldiers deployed in the Sahel region of western Africa in France’s anti-jihadist Barkhane force tested positive earlier this month for coronavirus.

Moreover, nearly half of the 2,300 sailors who were aboard France’s aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and support craft when a coronavirus outbreak occurred at sea have tested positive for the virus.

US Regulator Approves Limited Use Of Malaria Drugs For Coronavirus

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP.

 

A limited emergency-use authorization for two antimalarial drugs touted as game-changers by President Donald Trump has been issued by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat coronavirus patients.

In a statement published Sunday, the US Department of Health and Human Services detailed recent donations of medicine to a national stockpile — including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, both being investigated as potential COVID-19 treatments.

It said the FDA had allowed them “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.”

Trump said last week that the two drugs could be a “gift from God,” despite scientists warning against the dangers of overhyping unproven treatments.

Many researchers including Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease expert, have urged the public to remain cautious until larger clinical trials validate smaller studies.

READ ALSO: US Approves Chloroquine To Treat Coronavirus – Trump

Two US medical bodies — the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — are currently working to plan such trials.

Some in the scientific community fear Trump’s endorsement of the medicines could create shortages for patients who need them to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, diseases for which they are approved.

The US has more than 140,000 novel coronavirus cases and 2,489 deaths, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

AFP

COVID-19: Use Of Chloroquine Has Not Been Approved, NCDC Warns Nigerians

 

The Nigeria Center For Disease Control (NCDC) has insisted that Chloroquine has not been approved as a cure for the coronavirus disease.

The NCDC said this in a tweet on Wednesday while also warning Nigerians against self-medicating with the drug.

“Please remember that the use of chloroquine and its derivatives for the management of coronavirus disease has NOT been validated and approved. Self-medication can cause harm and lead to death. Do not misuse drugs,” the tweet read.

There has been controversy over whether or not the anti-malarial drug, Chloroquine can cure the disease especially after US President Donald Trump said on March 19 that it had been approved to treat the new coronavirus.

His announcement followed encouraging research into chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in France and China, but many in the wider scientific community cautioned that more work is needed to prove they really work for COVID-19.


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The Food and Drug Administration also later stated that though antimalarials have not been formally approved as a cure for the Coronavirus, the agency is expanding access so that authorities could gather more data.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn speaking on the matter said the access being granted falls under what is called “compassionate use.”

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) approved the production of Chloroquine for clinical trials.

Director-General of the agency, Mojisola Adeyeye, however, pointed out that NAFDAC is not approving Chloroquine for the treatment of  COVID-19 but for clinical trials to find treatment for the virus.

Coronavirus: NAFDAC Approves Production Of Chloroquine For Clinical Trial

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has approved the production of Chloroquine for clinical trials in tackling COVID-19.

Director-General of the agency, Mojisola Adeyeye, made the announcement on Friday at the NAFDAC headquarters in Lagos.

She, however, pointed out that NAFDAC is not approving Chloroquine for the treatment of  COVID-19 but for clinical trials to find treatment for the virus.

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“In the case of Chloroquine, it has been demonstrated in the literature and with clinical research which is still ongoing, that Chloroquine is superior to the Placebo.

“NAFDAC is not approving Chloroquine as a product that has can be used for Coronavirus because there is no submission to us for registration but because it is under clinical trials, NAFDAC approves medicines meant for clinical trials.

“Therefore the medicine is being approved just for the clinical trials,” Adeyeye said.

She, therefore, called on experts and researchers that are interested in doing a clinical trial on Chloroquine to approach approved outlets, adding that a drug company has been given an approval to produce chloroquine in batches

“Right now, we have asked one company to make a batch of Chloroquine for the purpose of clinical trial,” Adeyeye added.

The NAFDAC DG also urged Nigerians not to use Chloroquine as anti-malaria.

“Nobody should use chloroquine as anti-malaria because of the resistance that has been proven to develop in the past after the use of chloroquine in the population.”