Morocco to roll out Trump-backed antimalarial chloroquine against coronavirus

Morocco to roll out Trump-backed antimalarial chloroquine against coronavirus
3 min read
24 March, 2020
Morocco plans to use chloroquine, which US President Donald Trump has claimed could be a 'gift from God', to treat the COVID-19 illness.
Morocco has reported 143 cases of the COVID-19 illness [AFP]
Morocco has authoritised hospital to use antimalarial drugs endorsed by US President Donald Trump in the fight against the new coronavirus, according to a document seen by AFP.

Scientists have urged caution over use of the drug to treat the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

Trump has championed the use of antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat the highly contagious and deadly repiratory disease but experts say optimism around the drugs' potential is based on results from small-scale trials.

The Moroccan health ministry on Monday gave hospitals and regional health directors the green light to start using hydroxychloroquine and related compound chloroquine "in the care of confirmed COVID-19 cases", according to a message seen by AFP.

The message said that "efforts have been made to ensure the availability of these medicines", urging caution in how the stocks are managed.

Rabat last week ordered the Moroccan branch of French drug maker Sanofi to hand over its entire stock of Nivaquine and Plaquenil, both of which contain chloroquine.

Studies in France and China have found that the drug helped patients suffering from the COVID-19 illness, and France on Monday ordered its use in severe cases.

Trump said on Monday chloroquine could be a "gift from God".

He has been criticised by scientists for overhyping the drug, and on Monday the World Health Organisation urged caution over its use.

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A woman in Arizona who heard Trump talk about chloroquine ended up in hospital and her husband died after they took a form of chloroquine she had used to treat her koi fish, NBC reported.

Authorities in Nigeria have also reported cases of chloroquine poisoning after Trump's comments, while some in the US have claimed the president's advocacy for the drug has caused local shortages which have deprived regular users of the drug, which is also used to treat the Lupus auto-immune disease.

Experts have urged the public to remain cautious until larger clinical trials validate the smaller studies.

Morocco's health ministry said it took its decision after consulting with a scientific committee which recommended prescribing chloroquine along with another drug called azithromycine.

Morocco's transport minister, Abdelkader Amara, who tested positive for the new coronavirus on March 14, has already said he was taking Nivaquine.

"My health is stable. I have no fever or respiratory symptoms. The headaches are almost gone. I just feel a little tired," he told private radio station Medi 1.

Morocco has reported 143 cases of the COVID-19 illness, with four dead. The country has three screening centres and 1,642 intensive care beds for 35 million inhabitants. 

Rabat last week imposed a nationwide lockdown in a bid to stop the virus' spread.

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