Govt to continue using hydroxychloroquine on Covid-19 patients

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says treating Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine is perhaps why there is a low mortality rate.

PUTRAJAYA: The health ministry said it will continue to use hydroxychloroquine on Covid-19 patients despite the World Health Organization (WHO) suspending clinical trials of the drug as a potential treatment for the disease.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, however, stressed that health authorities were using it “off label” which, he had explained previously, meant it was not recommended.

“Hydroxychloroquine is not a treatment but it can delay or stop the progression into Category 4 and 5. And maybe that’s why we are seeing a low mortality rate,” he said at his daily briefing here today.

Hydroxychloroquine has been commonly used for treatment of malaria for the last 40 years.

Last month, WHO suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a precaution after a study suggested the drug could increase the risk of death among Covid-19 patients.

Noor Hisham also said the ministry was using lopinavir and ritonavir, which are widely used for the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS, on Covid-19 patients “off label”.

He explained that the ministry was placing children below 12 under the “high risk” group for Covid-19 infections due to immunity concerns.

“Their immunity may differ, sometimes they are not immune, and it is important to look into it,” he said.

He said while there were no Covid-19 mortalities of children under 12, it was the ministry’s role “to protect the children”.

He was asked why children below 12 were classified as a high risk group despite local and international data showing they were less likely to get infected or die from the disease.

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