There are many questions surrounding treatment options for COVID-19. One that has gotten national attention is hydroxychloroquine.
Studies suggest it is not an effective treatment for coronavirus, but President Donald Trump is taking it anyway as a preventative measure.
Doctors say taking any medication without good evidence to back it up can be dangerous. But what is hydroxychloroquine, and what are the implications of taking it?
Channel 11 talked to UPMC health experts to find out.
Hydroxychloroquine is a drug typically used to treat malaria. On Monday, Trump told reporters he’s been taking it daily as a preventative measure, despite not showing any symptoms of COVID-19.
When asked if the White House doctor recommended him taking it, the president said: “(He) didn’t recommend it. No, I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it.’ A lot of people are taking it. But you look at front-line workers, you look at doctors and nurses… a lot of them are taking it as a preventative.”
Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure for the novel coronavirus. But is it safe?
“It doesn’t take much extra... so maybe one or two extra pills even to become really dangerous on its own,” said Dr. Michael Lynch, medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center at UPMC. “It can also interact with other medications that can lead to problems with heart rhythm issues or things like that and can be deadly.”
Lynch told Channel 11 there are studies underway to determine its effectiveness, but he said right now the unknown is too great of a risk.
“So far, there hasn’t been any good evidence that hydroxychloroquine has any benefit for the treatment or prevention of coronavirus infections, but there have been good studies that show it can be harmful when being used to treat,” he said. “I would not prescribe this for anyone – for my family, kids … I would not prescribe this medication.”
Health experts Lynch say the best advice he can give is to listen to the experts. Don’t take something without consulting your doctor.
And what they don’t want to see is this drug flying off the shelves and creating a shortage for those who really need it.
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