Malaysia Drops Hydroxychloroquine From Covid-19 Treatment

By Kanmani Batumalai | 22 June 2020

MOH requires more data to study the effectiveness of potential Covid-19 medicines, but Malaysia currently doesn’t have enough cases.

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PUTRAJAYA, June 22 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has stopped using antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The Health director-general said today that recent local data showing that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t stop the progression of Covid-19, contrary to previous findings, led to that decision made by MOH.

“Hydroxychloroquine is not a new medicine. We have been using it for almost 40 years to treat malaria. We use it as off-label medicine for Covid-19 treatment,” he told a press conference.

“Initially we used it as an anti-inflammation medicine. We felt that it was effective. But when we collected data from 500 cases, we found that hydroxychloroquine did not have positive effects. Statistics also did not show the effectiveness of that medicine.

“When it is not effective to use, we decided to stop using it to treat Covid-19 patients,” he added.

Yesterday, The Star reported Dr K. Suresh, an infectious disease consultant and Hospital Sungai Buloh’s head of the medical department, as suggesting that hydroxychloroquine did not delay progression of Covid-19 in patients.

He stated that data obtained from preliminary research conducted among 586 Covid-19 patients who were either in Stage 2 or 3 demonstrated that the antimalarial drug did not help improve their condition.

The results showed that 10 per cent of patients who consumed hydroxychloroquine worsened to Stages Four and Five, compared to 8.9 per cent of those who did not take the antimalarial, a difference that was not statistically significant.

“Now we have the data and we can confirm that the medicine is not effective to treat Covid-19 patients. We stopped using the medicine because we have the data,” said Dr Noor Hisham today.

The DG also insisted that MOH required more data and scientific research to study the effectiveness of medicines that are being used to treat Covid-19 patients.

“Our reported cases are declining. When there’s a decline in the cases, we do not have enough patients to carry out scientific research.

“Although we have been identified as one of the centres to conduct research with WHO, but now we don’t have enough cases,” he said.

Malaysia’s total active infectious Covid-19 cases number at 289.

It is to be noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) also decided to end hydroxychloroquine testing last week in its global Solidarity trial that studies potential treatments for Covid-19, as data suggested the antimalarial would not help coronavirus patients. Malaysia is one of the countries participating in the WHO study.

Investigators of the Recovery trial, a separate large randomised study in the UK, said that hydroxychloroquine does not reduce the risk of death among hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

The study showed that 25.7 per cent of patients on hydroxychloroquine died over 28 days, compared with 23.5 per cent of others who did not receive the drug, a difference that was not statistically significant.

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