Researchers are testing hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs used for malaria, in the treatment of COVID-19 in the hope the cheap medicines could treat patients.
This week, for the first time, results from a human trial have been released, while other trials are still ongoing.
The French study published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents showed that antimalarial hydroxychloroquine could effectively treat COVID-19.
Despite its small sample size, the survey shows that the medicine is significantly associated with viral load reduction, or even the disappearance, of COVID-19 in patients. The treatment is even more effective when combined with an antibiotic called azithromycin.
Twenty COVID-19 patients were treated with hydroxychloroquine on its own, or a combination of the medicine with the antibiotic.
Those treated with the drugs showed a significant reduction of the novel coronavirus.
Sixteen other patients were used as a control.
The French paper adds to research published in the journal Nature which said chloroquine “appears to be the drug of choice for large-scale use due to its availability, proven safety record, and a relatively low cost.”
Clinical trials that prove its safety and effectiveness overtime will be needed before widespread use of the drug.
Since the early stages of the pandemic, testing known drugs for effects against the coronavirus has been pursued by scientists as it will be significantly quicker and less expensive than developing new drugs.
United States President Donald Trump is eager to have the drug approved for treatment. In a press conference Thursday night, Trump said that antiviral medications will be fast-tracked for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
FDA commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn was more cautious.
“What’s also important is not to provide false hope,” said Dr Hahn, who spoke after Trump.
“We may have the right drug, but it might not be in the appropriate dosage form right now, and it might do more harm than good.”
The United States said the drugs will be used in a clinical trial, according to FDA commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn.