Algeria insists on hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 treatment

WHO said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus.
Algerian paramedics wearing protective outfits are pictured in front of El-Kettar hospital’s special unit to treat cases of novel coronavirus in the capital Algiers on February 26, 2020. – Algerian authorities announced yesterday the country’s first case of the novel coronavirus, in an Italian citizen who arrived in the country on February 17. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

Algeria has disclosed plans to continue the use of hydroxychloroquine in tackling the coronavirus, despite the discouragement by the World Health Organization that has suspended clinical trials of such treatments following a study which showed that the drug caused more harm than good.

“We’ve treated thousands of cases with this medicine, very successfully so far,” said Mohamed Bekkat, a member of the scientific committee on the North African country’s Covid-19 outbreak. 

“We haven’t noted any undesirable reactions,” he said.

Bekkat, who is also head of the Order of Algerian Doctors, said the country had not registered any deaths caused by hydroxychloroquine.

“For confirmed cases, we use hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Then there is a whole protocol for serious cases,” a health ministry official said on Monday.

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Bekkat’s comments came days after medical journal The Lancet published a study of nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients, showing no benefit in those treated with the drug, which is normally used against arthritis.

The study found that administering the medicine or, separately, the related anti-malarial chloroquine, actually increased Covid-19 patients’ risk of dying.

The World Health Organization said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus, following the Lancet study.

Bekkat argued that the Lancet study had led to “confusion” as it “seems to concern serious cases in which hydroxychloroquine is of no help”.

“There is evidence that the use of chloroquine by some Arab and African countries has proven to be effective when used early,” he explained.  

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Public figures including US President Donald Trump have backed the drug as a virus treatment, prompting governments to bulk buy — despite several studies showing it to be ineffective and even increasing COVID-19 hospital deaths.

Algeria’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the worst in Africa, with a total of 8,503 cases and 609 deaths officially recorded since February 25.

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