Health officials in Cyprus were perturbed over an incident when a self-quarantined man infected with the Covid-19 disease went out to local pharmacies in search of chloroquine, an existing drug that is still open to debate around the world.
According to local media, an adult male who tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was ordered to stay in self isolation, went to see a doctor to ask for a medical prescription of chloroquine.
After the doctor refused, citing state-imposed restrictions on the prescription of the drug, the patient reportedly took it upon himself to locate a pharmacy to buy the immunosuppressive drug.
A health official, who spoke on state radio on Friday morning, condemned the patient’s behaviour, saying it was “completely unacceptable.”
“These medical drugs are not available over the counter, they are provided only with a doctor’s prescription and can only be delivered at home by state health services,” the official said.
China warns over use of chloroquine
As the outbreak was unfolding in China, doctors in that country were administering as early as February half a gram of chloroquine phosphate twice a day for a 10-day period, according to media sources.
But Chinese authorities also cautioned doctors and health officials about the drug’s side effects, calling on health administrations to monitor closely any adverse effects including rapid death that could result from even a moderately low overdosage.
In the Republic of Cyprus, some infected patients with the novel coronavirus, who were otherwise healthy, have died in hospital. It was not clear whether they had received chloroquine and whether it had been effective, while local sources have confirmed that the drug has been used in state hospitals in combination with other medical drugs during the coronavirus outbreak.
Chloroquine has been used in state hospitals in combination with other medical drugs during the coronavirus outbreak
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told a press conference earlier this week that the state Pharmaceutical Services’ Cyprus Drugs Committee had decided to put in motion procedures to make available sufficient quantities of chloroquine drugs to be used to combat COVID-19.
But European health regulators have refused to approve chloroquine for Covid-19. The European Medicines Agency said in a statement this week that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine should only be used to treat the virus in clinical trials and in severe cases.
Health officials also called on doctors to use the drug preferably in clinical trials or in accordance with national established protocols outside clinical trials.
The Food and Drug Administration in the United States has approved chloroquine for preventing and treating malaria, while reports said US President Donald Trump has been reportedly pushing for an FDA endorsement specifically for Covid-19.
Experts warned that more data was needed before the drug can be considered effective in the fight against the Covid-19 disease.
Last week in the Republic of Cyprus, reports said data had to be evaluated before the health ministry could go ahead with possible use or production of products containing chloroquine.
This week, the health minister said the drugs committee had decided to move forward with plans to make sufficient quantities available, while also making clear that "at present stage there is no approved treatment to deal with the coronavirus."