On Monday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk touted the idea of using chloroquine, also known as hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that has been in usage since the 1940s, to treat the novel coronavirus. On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced he had requested the Food and Drug Administration to look into the drug’s effectiveness against coronavirus.

What Is Hydroxychloroquine/Chloroquine?

“Maybe worth considering chloroquine for C19,” Musk tweeted, linking to a blocked Google Doc. He later added a link to an article about potential clinical treatment for the virus.

Trump also directed the FDA to look into remdesivir, an anti-viral drug currently being used to treat COVID-19 in China

It is important “not to provide false hope,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said at a daily White House press briefing. He added that Trump has “asked us to be aggressive” and “break through exciting, lifesaving treatment, and we’re doing that at the FDA.”

Preliminary research has indicated that the drug can treat severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which was caused by a strain of coronavirus.

“It has been found in mice to be effective to treat a variety of viruses,” Dr. Kristian Olson, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School told CNBC. “It also appears it’s active in vitro (via test tube experiments) against COVID-19.”

Chloroquine is safe in low to moderate dosages, but toxic if too much is consumed. As such, it requires a prescription and doctors have urged people not to self-medicate.

“Please note that chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine should only be prescribed by a specialist physician,” tweeted Dr. Ngozi Onuoha. “These are not medications for self-prescribing or self-medication.”

Onuoha continued, “Complications of acute chloroquine toxicity include abnormal heart rhythm, low blood pressure, depressed myocardial contractility, heart block, abnormal heart beat; seizures, coma, and cardiac or respiratory arrest may occur.”

“It may work, it may not work,” Trump said when asked by a reporter if he was giving Americans a false sense of hope. “I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling.”

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