The health ministry on Thursday called on doctors to closely monitor coronavirus patients who have heart problems and who might have been prescribed the anti-malarial drug chloroquine.
It said the drug’s use should even be discontinued if necessary, citing new research pointing to unwanted side effects when taken in conjunction with drugs affecting cardiovascular function.
The ministry said it was known that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine cause heart problems in some patients that could be exacerbated if treatment was combined with other drugs, such as the antibiotic azithromycin (also included in the guidelines), which have similar effects on the heart.
“Recently, the World Health Organisation temporarily suspended the administration of hydroxychloroquine in the Solidarity clinical study in the wake of [other] studies showing an increased risk of unwanted reactions from its use,” the health ministry said.
The advisory scientific committee has taken into consideration the new data, the ministry said, and was expected to assess them and, if deemed necessary, review the guiding lines for the management of Covid-19.
“Until then, health professionals are advised to closely monitor patients with Covid-19 who receive chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, follow the guidelines’ recommendations, and consider pre-existing heart problems that may make patients more prone to cardiovascular disorders,” the ministry said.
Due to the recent data on the significant increase in side effects in co-administration with drugs that affect the heart rate, it is recommended to pay special attention and possible discontinuation of the co-administration, it said. It also urged doctors to record any associated side effects of drug interactions in updated databases.
It called on patients and healthcare professionals to report any related adverse reactions from these formulations to the competent authorities.
The ministry recalled that the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, alone or in combination with other drugs, is included in the guidelines for the treatment of patients with Covid-19 as proposed by the scientific advisory committee based on the experience and the existing bibliography in March, in the absence of specific or other effective treatment.
It also pointed out that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine preparations are currently approved for the treatment of malaria and some autoimmune diseases but are not officially approved for use for Covid-19.