Guyana using Malaria drugs to treat COVID-19

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The Georgetown Public Hospital has begun using drugs approved for the treatment of malaria to treat the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Dr. Shazeema Shaw who works at the hospital’s COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in an interview with the News Room on Wednesday said the healthcare workers have begun using Hydroxychloroquine, Chloroquine and Azithromycin.

Dr. Shaw is one of 25 doctors and nurses who are assigned to the COVID-19 ICU at the Georgetown Public Hospital.

She told the News Room noted that while the drugs “were approved in some countries, there are still controversies” over there use and effectiveness.  However, she said the doctors in Guyana have “chosen to use those medications for the benefit of our patients.”

Dr. Shazeema Shaw

There is no approved treatment for COVID-19 and patients are in fact treated according to their symptoms.

“If someone tests positive for COVID-19, whether it is mild or complicated, it is very much a symptomatic treatment. If you have problem breathing, we treat that (and) whatever else come up,” she explained.

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription medicine used to treat malaria and other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It is related to chloroquine, which is also used to treat malaria.

It is being used to treat COVID-19 in some countries after it was found to be efficient on SARS-CoV-2, and reported to be efficient in Chinese COVID-19 patients.

Medical staff at the GPHC Emergency Ward dressed in their protective gears. (News Room photo)

Depending on their clinical presentation, azithromycin was added to the treatment.

A laboratory study found that chloroquine could block the coronavirus from invading cells, which it must do to replicate and cause illness.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) said the drugs are under investigation in clinical trials.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not ruled out the use of the medication but it has said currently there is insufficient data to assess the efficacy of either of these medicines in treating patients with COVID-19, or in preventing them from contracting the coronavirus.

The WHO added that in the context of the COVID-19 response, the dosage and treatment schedules for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine that are currently under consideration do not reflect those used for treating patients with malaria.

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