The drug that President Donald Trump touted Thursday as a potential “game changer” in the fight against coronavirus can cause sudden death if a person takes just 1 gram more than the recommended dosage, according to a report by Bloomberg News.
The report cited Chinese guidelines issued in February that warned health officials about the lethal side effects of the existing malaria drug chloroquine, and its derivative hyrdoxychloroquine.
“Nice part is it’s been around a long time, so if things don’t go well, we know it won’t kill anyone,” Trump said Thursday during a press briefing at the White House, where he announced the drug was being “fast-tracked” by the Food and Drug Administration.
After the virus first emerged in December, China tested the drug on about 130 patients in clinical trials, with positive results.
French physician-researchers also conducted successful clinical trial using the drug, according to The New York Post.
But a study conducted by Wuhan Institute of Virology found that chloroquine could cause death if a person exceeds the daily recommended dosage of 1 gram.
In the days following the study, China’s National Health Commission issued treatment guidelines that limited chloroquine's use and cautioned doctors about the deadly risk of dosages as small as 2 grams, Bloomberg reported.
The commission recommended no more than a 10-day course of chloroquine for adult patients at 500mg — half a gram — twice a day, Bloomberg reports.
On Feb. 25, a woman in Wuhan, China, took 1.8 grams of the drug and developed a potentially deadly case of malignant cardiac arrhythmia, Bloomberg said, citing online media outlet The Paper in Shanghai.
Thus far, no clinical trials have been conducted in the United States to show its effectiveness against the coronavirus, according to reports.
"We’re going to be able to make that drug available immediately,” the president said at Thursday's press conference.
Afterwards, experts quickly disagreed with the president about the effectiveness of chloroquine, saying the public should temper any optimism about the drug being a true vaccine.
An Emory doctor also disputed the president’s claim that the drug was readily available.
Chloroquine's other side effects include nausea, diarrhea and tinnitus. Long-term use can impair eyesight, Bloomberg reports. The medication can also cause birth defects.
The drug is prescribed and sold under the brand name Plaquenil, which has also received the endorsement of Tesla Inc. chief executive officer Elon Musk, according to reports.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.