Trump FDA Fast-tracks Use of Malaria Drug, Hydroxychloroquine to Fight COVID-19
The Trump administration’s coronavirus task force has approved the use of an anti-malaria drug to treat coronavirus patients, President Trump said Thursday. The drug Hydroxychloroquine, long used on malaria and arthritis patients, will be made available “almost immediately” to coronavirus patients with a prescription, he said during the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force briefing on Thursday.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has slashed red tape so they could fast track the approval of the drug’s new use, he added. It has had “very encouraging early results” in tests on COVID-19, he said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic was now a “medical war.” Hydroxychoroquine is sold in the United States under the brand name Plaquenil, manufactured by Sanofi.
Hydroxychloroquine and several other related antimalarials are all derived from quinine, a naturally occurring substance harvested from the bark of the Cinchona tree.
Last week, a pharmacologist from Bandung’s Padjajaran University in West Java challenged Indonesian scientists to conduct additional studies on the efficacy of chloroquine phosphate, to be a possible cure for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Keri Lestari, a professor at the university’s pharmacology and clinical pharmacy department, said research in China had suggested that chloroquine phosphate, a derivative substance from quinine — a component extracted from the bark of a cinchona tree commonly cultivated in West Java — had a curative effect on COVID-19.
“Scientists have tested thousands of medicines, some showing promising results [to cure COVID-19], one of them is chloroquine phosphate,” she told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil has also urged universities to carry out further studies on the potency of chloroquine phosphate to cure coronavirus, which on Wednesday was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The cultivation of quinine in Indonesia, especially on the island of Java, was pioneered in 1855 by Frans Wilhem Junghuhn, a German-Dutch botanist and geologist. Haryanto Kunto, the author of Semerbang Bunga in Bandung Raya, said Junghuhn had increased the number of quinine plants in Java from 167 to 1.3 million in six-and-a-half years.
Since then until World War II broke out, Indonesia supplied 90 percent of the world’s quinine powder, producing 11,000-12,400 dry cinchona bark every year.
Minute amounts of quinine have traditionally been used in soft drink flavorings, including a bartending cocktail standard, Tonic Water, normally used in Gin and Tonic and Vodka Tonic mixed drinks.