By Rosie McCall On 4/6/20 at 12:30 PM EDT
Several hospitals in Sweden have reportedly stopped administering chloroquine to coronavirus patients following reports the drug was causing adverse side effects.
According to the national paper Expressen, hospitals in the Västra Götaland region are no longer offering the antimalarial medication, with side effects reported to include cramps and the loss of peripheral vision.
One of the patients affected was Carl Sydenhag, a 40-year-old Stockholm resident. According to Expressen, Sydenhag has prescribed two tablets of chloroquine to take daily after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 23.
But instead of making him feel better, the medication produced unpleasant side effects. As well as cramps and vision loss, Sydenhag experienced a headache that felt like stepping into “a high voltage plant,” he told the paper.
Magnus Gisslén, a professor and chief physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital infection clinic, told the Gothenburg Post he and others at the clinic administered chloroquine “like everyone else.” But as of two weeks ago, Sahlgrenska University Hospital has stopped all use of chloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19.
“There were reports of suspected more serious side effects than we first thought,” he told the Gothenburg Post on April 1, 2020. “We cannot rule out serious side effects, especially from the heart, and it is a hard-dosed drug. In addition, we have no strong evidence that chloroquine has an effect on COVID-19.”
There are no specific drugs used to treat the novel coronavirus but many have pointed to the anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as contenders.
President Donald Trump has touted the use of hydroxychloroquine in particular, claiming “very very encouraging early results” and announcing on Sunday the federal government had stockpiled 29 million pills of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of antimalarial medication last month.
This is despite the fact that the drugs have achieved mixed results in scientific studies. One study suggested it provides no additional benefit to patients who are already receiving care and being treated with antiviral drugs.
Another from researchers in France that have been widely cited by those in favor of using the chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine found the drugs dramatically lower viral load in COVID-19 patients. However, it has been criticized for its poor design, The Financial Times reports.
A paper published last week went even further, disputing its claims and finding no evidence of antiviral clearance or clinical benefit of using hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to treat COVID-19.
Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, Dr. Anthony Fauci said: “the data are really just at best suggestive” when it comes to the benefit of using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
“There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there’s no effect. So I think in terms of science, I don’t think we could definitively say it works.”
The below infographic from Statista shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of April 6, 2020, at 3:00 a.m.