Chloroquine hype is derailing the search for coronavirus treatments
People with COVID-19 who arrive at the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition in Mexico City to search for treatment can choose from a menu of clinical trials, carefully presented by a worker trained to offer an unbiased portrait of the potential risks and benefits.
But neurologist Sergio Iván Valdés-Ferrer already knows which trial most will choose — and it’s not his. Instead, many people opt for one involving hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that has been touted by US President Donald Trump and other influential figures as an effective coronavirus treatment. High demand for the drug in Mexico has quickly depleted the country’s supply. Its use is now limited to hospitals, and patients are eager to ensure that they receive it.
“There’s a tremendous bias,” says Valdés-Ferrer, who is studying the effects of a dementia drug on COVID-19. “Studies of any other drug that are enrolling all ages and degrees of severity are in big trouble.”