NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While the United States Federal Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of hydroxychloroquine sulfate for the treatment of critical coronavirus patients, the drug is not an approved treatment in The Bahamas.
Hydroxycholoroquine is also used to prevent or treat malaria infections, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Director Dr Nikkiah Forbes underscored yesterday that the drug, which has seen a surge in demand in recent days, has only seen theoretical benefits.
Forbes stressed there is not enough data to determine whether it can cause harm.
“We do not aim to cause the patient harm,” Forbes said.
The increase in demand follows comments from U.S. President Donald Trump championing the use of the drug in treatments for COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine is among several drugs currently being tested in an international trial launched by the World Health Organization to find a treatment for the virus.
“We do not know if the drug would work,” Forbes said.
“We are already seeing in some locations that there is hydroxychloroquine. toxicity for people who are taking overdose- there are side effects and people have as a matter of fact died.”
She continued: “There’s a process in which we determine whether or not these drugs work categorically. In these small studies there were only small amounts of patients and it was not very robust information; it was not scientifically sound at this time.
“If we find out later on that it causes harm, that it is a problem for the patient, and that is why we don’t skip the necessary steps.”
Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization to allow hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate products donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, “as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible”.
On Tuesday, the FDA said all manufacturers were ramping up production and the agency was working with them to assess their supplies and ensure produce can happen “expeditiously and safely”.
The Bahamas Pharmacy Council has encouraged both medical providers and pharmacists to follow established guidelines when prescribing and filling medication.
It noted that no prescription or medical order for hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine should be dispensed by a pharmacist for a COVID-19 diagnosis unless the prescription meets all requirements outlined by the council.