Public advised not to self-medicate with antimalarial medications

Antimalarial drugs are not a cure for Covid-19 and it is meant only as a supplement


ANTIMALARIAL medications should not be consumed without prescriptions due to the risks it poses especially for people with liver and kidney problems, experts warned.

A pharmacist who requested anonymity advised the public to not simply purchase any medicine and avoid self-prescription of medicines to prepare against Covid-19.

“We don’t want the public to get confused and look for any medicines. Those drugs (antimalarial) are under control or described as Group B medicines,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Examples of Group B medicines are hypertension and diabetic medications.

According to MyHealth portal, Group B medicines can only be sold or supplied for the purpose of treatment by a registered medical practitioner, registered dentist or veterinary officer for their patients only.

Sale or supply by a licensed pharmacist can only be done with a prescription recommended by a registered medical practitioner, registered dentist or veterinary officer.

She said antimalarial drugs are not a cure for Covid-19 and it is meant only as a supplement.

“Hospitals are not relying on antimalarial (pills) alone. Combination regimens between antimalarial, antivirus and few medicines are used to treat Covid-19 patients.

“Specific regimens for Covid-19 patients depend on the level of seriousness of the case,” she added.

Last week, US President Donald Trump urged Americans to try hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria, arthritis and lupus which has not been extensively tested for other conditions.

However, Dr Anthony Stephen Fauci, a US top doctor on infectious diseases and a key member of the White House taskforce, was adamant there was nothing to suggest the medicine had any benefit against coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine, also known by its brand name Plaquenil, is a drug used to treat malaria. It is a less toxic version of chloroquine, another malaria drug which itself is related to “quinine”, an ingredient in tonic water.

On March 29, Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said chloroquine has shown its efficacy in the treatment of Covid-19 patients since the first wave of the outbreak in Malaysia.

“There have been promising results, but further research is still required,” he said.

He said the drugs’ anti-inflammatory properties have been effective in treating Covid-19 which causes inflammation of the lower respiratory tract.

Dr Noor Hisham said hydroxychloroquine, and a combination of antiviral drugs such as lopinavir and ritonavir, had also been used in the treatment of patients in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said the public should support science and evidence-based treatments.

According to him, the Ministry of Health has been using hydroxychloroquine as an off-label approach to treat Covid-19 patients from the beginning of the outbreak.

“Their experience has shown that when used for patients in categories 1 and 2, it helps limit further deterioration into different stages of the disease.

“The data indicate that only 5% of Covid-19 patients are in the intensive care unit, compared to 10% in other countries,” he told TMR.

Based on this, Azrul said it is possible that the anti-inflammatory properties of hydroxychloroquine could be used to prevent deterioration of Covid-19 patients.

“However, because there have not been proper clinical trials, it is not a universally accepted treatment approach for Covid-19 and it requires close monitoring.

“It is dangerous and possibly even fatal for the medication to be taken without prescription or supervision by a healthcare provider,” he explained.