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Coronavirus: Controversial malaria drug hydroxychloroquine tested at B.C. seniors’ home

FDA approves ’emergency use’ of hydroxychloroquin to test on coronavirus patients
FDA approves 'emergency use' of hydroxychloroquin to test on coronavirus patients

A controversial anti-malaria drug is being trialed as a therapy for COVID-19 at the B.C. seniors’ care home at the epicentre of the province’s novel coronavirus outbreak.

Global News has confirmed that residents of the Lynn Valley Care Centre are receiving hydroxychloroquine as a part of an international study on the effectiveness of the drug.

B.C. health officials confirm 2 new deaths, 67 new cases of COVID-19
B.C. health officials confirm 2 new deaths, 67 new cases of COVID-19

Forty-six residents and 24 staff at the facility have have tested positive for COVID-19.

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The drug is being administered to all residents of the virus-stricken building known as “the lodge” at the care home, with the exception of those who opted out of the trial.

Debra Drew, whose father is one of the COVID-19-positive residents of the facility, said her family decided to opt in.

“As a family we had the right to deny the treatment,” she said.

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“We said, ‘Yes, lets try it… Every day is a new day.”

Hydroxychloroquine is a Health Canada-approved drug which has been used to treat malaria for more than a half-century. It is also used as a treatment for lupus.

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The drug made international headlines this month when U.S. President Donald Trump touted it as a potential breakthrough treatment for COVID-19.

The drug has shown promise in some small, early trials.

However, its benefits remain unproven, and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has recommended against its use to treat the disease “based on the lack of clinically convincing outcomes and the fragility of the supply chain.”

On Thursday, the College of Pharmacists of BC, College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, and BC College of Nursing Professionals took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement warning against the use of unproven treatments, including hydroxychloroquine.

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However, that guidance specifically exempted clinical trials.

Hydroxychloroquine is also being tested by a team at the University of Manitoba.

Trials began March 26 in Manitoba and Quebec, and similar trials are also underway in the United States. Alberta and other provinces are expected to join within a few days.

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— With files from Keith Baldrey, Sarah MacDonald and Sam Thompson