COVID-19: More hydroxychloroquine data from France, more questions


However, just a week ago, access to this drug (and others with market approval that have been on the market for several years) was blocked in hospital central pharmacies, while we are the medical specialists with the authorization! It was unacceptable.

It was sorted out 48 hours ago: hydroxychloroquine is now available in the hospital, and to my knowledge, we no longer have a problem obtaining it.

It took time to alleviate doubts over the major health risks with this drug. [Officials] seemed almost like amateurs in their hesitation; I think they lacked foresight. We have forgotten that the treatment advocated by Prof. Didier Raoult is not chloroquine but rather hydroxychloroquine, and we know that the adverse effects are less [with hydroxychloroquine] than with chloroquine.

You yourself have treated patients with chloroquine, despite the risk for toxicity highlighted by some.

Initially, when we first started treating patients, we thought of chloroquine because we did not have data on hydroxychloroquine, only Chinese data with chloroquine. We therefore prescribed chloroquine several days before prescribing hydroxychloroquine.

The question of the toxicity of chloroquine was not unjustified, but I think we took far too much time to decide on the toxicity of hydroxychloroquine. Is [the latter] political? I don’t know. It was widely publicized, which amazes me for a drug that is already available.

On the other hand, everyone was talking at the same time about the toxicity of NSAIDs. ... One has the impression it was to create a diversion. I think there were double standards at play and a scapegoat was needed to gain some time and ask questions.

What is sure is that it is probably not for financial reasons, as hydroxychloroquine costs nothing. That’s to say there were probably pharmaceutical issues at stake for possible competitors of hydroxychloroquine; I do not want to get into this debate, and it doesn’t matter, as long as we have an answer.

Today, the only thing we have advanced on is the “safety” of hydroxychloroquine, the low risk to the general population. ... On the other hand, we have still not made any progress on the evidence of efficacy, compared with other treatments.

Personally, I really believe in hydroxychloroquine. It would nevertheless be a shame to think we had found the fountain of youth and realize, in 4 weeks, that we have the same number of deaths. That is the problem. I hope that we will soon have solid data so we do not waste time focusing solely on hydroxychloroquine.

What are the other avenues of research that grab your attention?

The Discovery trial will probably give an answer on remdesivir [GS-5734, Gilead], which is a direct antiviral and could be interesting. But there are other studies being conducted currently in China.

There is also favipiravir [T-705, Avigan, Toyama Chemical], which is an anti-influenza drug used in Japan, which could explain, in part, the control of the epidemic in that country. There are effects in vitro on coronavirus. But it is not at all studied in France at the moment. Therefore, we should not focus exclusively on hydroxychloroquine; we must keep a close eye on other molecules, in particular the “old” drugs, like this antiviral.

The study was supported by the Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire (IHU) Méditerranée Infection, the National Research Agency, under the Investissements d’avenir program, Région Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur, and European funding FEDER PRIMI. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

This article first appeared on Medscape.com.


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