Hydroxychloroquine Won’t Be Effective on Humans in the COVID-19 Fights
By: Evan Mei
Neil Schluger has had bad days as a doctor. One day, on the COVID-19 frontlines, he asked an intern, “How did we do last night?” The intern said, “Well, I had 10 COVID admissions, and three are dead now.” He said “It was like nothing I’ve experienced in 35 years of being a physician,” Schluger says.
Originally, Neil was hopeful that hydroxychloroquine would help. He and his colleagues prescribed the medicine to 811 of their patients. But, the drug had not helped, so in the middle of April, he stopped prescribing the drug.
Even though this “wonder drug” has been removed, New York City cases have continued to plummet. “If we’d taken away a lifesaving drug, you wouldn’t expect that to happen,” he says. Now, he gives credit for the decrease in cases to people that follow the rules: wear a mask, stay home, and social distancing.
Hydroxycloroquine has been tested more than any potential COVID-19 cure. However, it has repeatedly fallen short of expectations and no evidence supports that it can treat cases of COVID-19. However, people like President Trump are adamant that hydroxychloroquine will work. On July 27, a misleading assertion that proved hydroxychloroquine was effective spread across the Internet.
So, how was hydroxychloroquine even considered? Originally, African green monkey kidney cells were used, since they can be easily inhabited by many viruses. However, they are not human cells. COVID-19 has two ways of hijacking a cell; the one used for the monkey cells in the lab was different from the method used to attack humans.
Hydroxychloroquine is useful to calm an overactive immune system, called a cytokine storm, which can occur during lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Still, Shumel Shoman, an infectious-disease specialist at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, has said that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective COVID-19 treatment. Hydroxychloroquine has not even surpassed the level of effectiveness of a placebo treatment.
Researchers “who have looked at the data carefully consider the hydroxychloroquine story to be pretty much over,” Schluger says. “It would be a shame if we weren’t trying other potentially promising things because we were hung up chasing down something for which there’s a lot of evidence now that it doesn’t really do much.”