Antimalarial drug seen as potential cure for Covid-19 infections

BEIJING, 18 Feb 2020:

Chinese experts, based on the result of clinical trials, have confirmed that chloroquine phosphate – an antimalarial drug – has a certain curative effect on the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), reported Xinhua news agency.

The experts have “unanimously” suggested the drug be included in the next version of the treatment guidelines and applied in wider clinical trials as soon as possible, said Sun Yanrong, deputy head of the China National Center for Biotechnology Development under the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST).

At a press conference yesterday, Sun said Chloroquine Phosphate – which has been used for more than 70 years – was selected from tens of thousands of existing drugs, after multiple rounds of screening,

She said the drug has been under clinical trials in over 10 hospitals in Beijing, as well as in south China’s Guangdong Province and central China’s Hunan Province – and has shown fairly good efficacy.

In the trials, she said the groups of patients who had taken the drug have shown better indicators than their parallel groups – in abatement of fever, improvement of CT images of lungs, the percentage of patients who became negative in viral nucleic acid tests and the time they need to do so.

Patients taking the drug also take a shorter time to recover, she added.

Sun gave an example of a 54-year-old patient in Beijing, who was admitted to hospital four days after showing symptoms. After taking the drug for a week, he saw all indicators improve and the nucleic acid turn negative.

So far, no obvious serious adverse reactions related to the drug have been found among the over 100 patients enrolled in the clinical trials, she said.

On Feb 15, several departments – including MOST, the National Health Commission and the National Medical Products Administration – called a video conference to listen to drug research and clinical experts’ opinions on the drug’s efficacy on Covid-19.

The expert team, led by Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory specialist and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, agreed that Chloroquine Phosphate can be used to treat more Covid-19 patients, Sun said.

Previous in vitro experiments showed it can block virus infections by changing the acidity and basicity value inside the cell and interfering receptors of SARS coronavirus.

It also shows immune-modulating activity, which may enhance its antiviral effect in vivo and is widely distributed in the whole body, including the lungs, after oral administration.

China’s daily new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus pneumonia outside Hubei, the epicentre province of the outbreak, have dropped for 14 consecutive days, according to the National Health Commission today.

A total of 79 new confirmed cases were reported yesterday outside Hubei – a 14th consecutive day drop since Feb 3, showed figures released by the commission.

A total of 890 new cases were reported outside Hubei on Feb 3.

The commission said it received reports of 1,886 new confirmed cases yesterday from 31 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, including 1,807 in Hubei.

A total of 12,552 patients infected with the novel coronavirus had been discharged from hospital after recovery by the end of yesterday, the Chinese health authority said. The commission added that 11,741 patients remained in severe condition, and 6,242 people were suspected of being infected with the virus.

Monday saw 1,701 people walk out of hospital after recovery, the National Health Commission said in its daily report, while 1,097 patients became seriously ill. Another 1,432 new suspected cases were reported yesterday, said the commission.

By the end of yesterday, a total of 1,868 people had died of the disease and 72,436 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection had been reported.

There were 98 deaths yesterday and among the deaths, 93 were in Hubei Province, three in Henan, and one in Hebei and Hunan respectively, according to the National Health Commission.

– Bernama