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Sri Lanka ramps up chloroquine output, public warned not to take as preventive drug

A woman wearing a facemask stands at the entrance of Sri Lanka's Infectious Diseases Hospital near Colombo on March 17, 2020. LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has warned the public against taking Chloroquine, an-anti malarial drug which has been identified as a possible drug which can help Coronavirus patients recover faster as a preventive, while ramping up domestic production.

“The medical supply division have given us a purchase order to manufacture 500,000 chloroquine tablets which was manufactured under 24 hours,” Uthpala Indrawansa, a medical doctor who is Chairman of the State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) told EconomyNext.

“This treatment is only for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and should not be administered to anyone without a prescription under a medical consultant.”

Sri Lankans have been warned not to take chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug which is due to undergo a clinical trial in the US to find dosages and effectiveness to treat already infected patients.

“There has been a view that taking Chloroquin will prevent the infection of COVID19 virus,” Anil Jasinghe, head of Sri Lanka’s Health Service said Sunday.

“I have consulted a team of 12 specialists in the field and I was told through data and other analysis that this drug cannot prevent infection.

“This drug can be administered to patients who are already infected with COVID19 and that also only in a hospital situation. I I urge you not to buy this drug and self-administer as it will not prevent infection.”

Interest in the drug had shot up after President Trump said the US Food and Drug Administration has given the nod for a broader clinical trial after researchers found that it appeared to help Coronavirus patients recover faster in a smaller study.

The dosage and efficacy of the drug will be decided by the clinical trial, the FDA chief said. In some countries people have been poisoned by taking large doses of chloroquine taken as a prophylactic.

Sri Lankan doctors have used the drug for decades in their fight against malaria and it is widely available in pharmarcies of many countries. Trump pointed out that the FDA could speed up approval since the side effects of the Chloroquine was already known.

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Chloroquine is also used in treatments like Rheumatoid arthritis and Systemic lupus erythematosus.

“Chloroquine is of two types, manly Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate and Chloroquine Phosphate,” Indrawansa explained.

“The main component in this treatment is ‘Quinine’, therefore both these types of chloroquine is used.”

The drug is widely available in pharmacies in many tropical countries had been sold out in some. People who took large doses have suffered chloroquine poisoning.

Meanwhile, Fugifilm, a Japanese company has produces a drug called Avigan which is used against flu shown ‘very good clinical results’, in a trial, news agencies said.

Favipiravir, the main ingredient in the influenza drug Avigan is claimed to turn patients negative for the virus after a median of four days as opposed to a median of 11 days for patients who weren’t treated with the drug in China, foreign media reports said. (Colombo/23Mar/2020)

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