“The latest work which has been published and validated is not, unfortunately, in favor of the use in current practice of this treatment in mono or bitherapy”, announced the Minister of Health Olivier Véran, Wednesday, April 22, during questions to the government, to the Senate. What was he talking about? Chloroquine of course. More specifically, its derivative, better tolerated by the human organism, hydroxychloroquine.
Questionable Chinese and Marseilles essays
From the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, chloroquine was one of thousands of molecules screened by Chinese pharmacologists on the lookout for drugs that could suppress the action of the Sars-Cov-2 virus. Chloroquine, made from quinine in cinchona bark, is a very old remedy for fighting the malaria parasite.
→ LIVE. Coronavirus: the latest information and France and worldwide
In France, since the end of February, it has been the subject of scientific controversy, then of a media controversy, following the declarations of Didier Raoult, professor of infectious diseases at the IHU in Marseille. According to his first essay, published on February 19, 2020 in BioScience Trends, chloroquine may lower the viral load in Covid-19 + patients at the start of their illness. To be precise, in this trial, chloroquine was accompanied by an antibiotic (azithromycin), which also had virucidal and anti-inflammatory properties.
Quickly, scientists criticized his method, the absence of a control batch in particular, they reported that chloroquine could cause heart rhythm disorders and concluded that this drug could not be considered to be effective against this coronavirus (1).
Negative European and North American opinions
Since then, dozens of infectious disease departments around the world, particularly in the United States with the support of Donald Trump, in Morocco, in Senegal … have been trying to treat their Covid + patients with one or both molecules. And with mostly negative results, according to the information available.
→ READ. Coronavirus: Chloroquine Tears Family Physicians
In the United States, the results, published Tuesday, April 21, of the largest study to date, funded by the United States government, have shown no benefit of hydroxychloroquine against the disease compared to standard treatment. On the contrary, it revealed an excess mortality with the use of hydroxychloroquine, alone or associated with azithromycin.
High heart risk
And on Thursday, April 23, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a statement that the potentially beneficial effects of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine did not “Not yet been demonstrated”. Alerting on the contrary on of “Serious, and in some cases fatal, heart rhythm problems with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, especially taken in high doses or in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin”.
These treatments are also likely to cause liver and kidney problems, damage nerve cells, and cause seizures and hypoglycemia, the agency said.
New, more rigorous research
In the meantime, in France, numerous clinical trials based on chloroquine, with a more rigorous protocol than that of Marseille, are in progress. In particular in various French hospitals (Bichat, Pitié, Angers, etc.) as part of the Reacting study by Inserm, a stakeholder in the European study Discovery.
They are carried out with 800 hospitalized and seriously ill patients, which is a real difference compared to the Marseille protocol. The first results should not fall until the end of May, according to Florence Ader, professor of pulmonology in Lyon and coordinator of Discovery for France.