Health ministry says chloroquine can be used for Covid-19

PETALING JAYA: Three types of drugs, including one described by US President Donald Trump as a “game-changer”, are available in Malaysia and may be used for treatment of Covid-19, the health ministry said.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the three drugs were registered with Malaysia’s drug control authority, the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.

The drugs – chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir – “can be used to treat other ailments and for treating Covid-19,” he said in a statement.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are commonly used for treatment of malaria, while lopinavir and ritonavir are widely used for the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS.

Last week, President Trump declared hydroxychloroquine to be a “game-changer” in Covid-19 treatment and said his government was going to make the drug available almost immediately.

His assertion quickly met with derision from scientists. His claim is believed to have caused the death of a man in Arizona who, with his wife, took chloroquine phosphate, which is used in aquariums. She said they took the drug after hearing about it on television, because they were afraid of getting sick.

Chloroquine is reported to have shown promise in treatment of Covid-19 cases in China and France.

However experts have said that the study sample was small and could not be classed as evidence of a potential treatment. The French health ministry has also warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine as self-medication for Covid-19.

Russian doctors are reported to have found lopinavir and ritonavir to be effective against mild Covid-19 cases.

To date, the pandemic had claimed 27 lives in Malaysia and infected 2,320 others.