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France / Fight against the coronavirus: “Promising” trials with chloroquine in Marseille

Clinical trials of chloroquine, an antimalarial drug, carried out in Marseille to treat patients with Covid-19 are “promising” and “will be extended”, government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said yesterday. “There are clinical trials on 24 patients, which are promising. The ministry wanted to extend these clinical trials, which will be duplicated on a larger number of patients,” she said after a Council ministers.

Chloroquine is an antimalarial drug that has been used for several decades and is marketed in particular under the name Nivaquine. This treatment is often recommended when planning to travel to an area infested by the malaria parasite, transmitted by mosquitoes.

Professor Didier Raoult, who tests chloroquine at the University Hospital Institute (IHU) in Marseille, said Monday that its effect against the coronavirus was spectacular with the disappearance of the virus in six days from three quarters of patients.

In a video, the director of the IHU in Marseille explains that 24 patients affected by the coronavirus took Plaquenil, one of the trade names for chloroquine, and that six days later, only 25% were still carriers of the virus while 90% of those who had not received this treatment were still positive.

These new clinical trials “will be carried out with a team independent from Professor (Didier) Raoult”, who called for their extension, said Sibeth Ndiaye, stressing with caution that at this stage “we have no scientific proof” that this treatment works.

Chloroquine is a long-established, inexpensive antimalarial drug. Didier Raoult believes that he has made “spectacular improvements” in infected patients. Before conducting tests, the infectious disease specialist was based on a letter published in the journal BioScience Trends, which takes up a communication from the Chinese government of February 17. It was stated that chloroquine was part of the therapeutic response to the epidemic and had been tested on around 100 patients in ten hospitals.

But several experts call for caution in the absence of further studies and because of its side effects which can be serious, especially in case of overdose. This treatment for malaria is usually not recommended for people over 65, precisely the age group in which this coronavirus is the most lethal.

According to Europe 1, many patients are already flocking to pharmacies to buy chloroquine. What Gilbert Deray, nephrologist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital contacted by Europe 1, considers “useless and dangerous”. “You have to be very careful because it gives a lot of side effects, and in particular it damages the retina with loss of vision which can be irreversible”, he warns. He adds that chloroquine also causes “arrhythmias which can lead to cardiac arrest.”



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