Old drug gives hope to scientists in treating coronavirus patients

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Could the key to treating coronavirus be in a malaria drug? Scientists at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation say early results show it’s got potential. 

“There were about 11 clinical trials posted for COVID-19. Yesterday when I checked there were 94,” Dr. Judith James, M.D., PhD. and vice president of clinical affairs at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation said. 

As scientists scramble to find a vaccine for coronavirus, others are looking at ways to treat the disease.

“One of the ones that’s been tried in several places and are in numerous clinical trials is an old medicine that’s been used historically for malaria,” James said. 

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation works with scientists from all over the country and says the half-century old malaria drug could prove effective in treating patients hard hit by COVID-19. 

It’s called chloroquine phosphate.

“It changes the PH so it changes some things inside the cell and that’s important for this virus to be able to assemble and that’s important for it to be able to replicate and it to be able to infect other people,” James said. 

The pill would only be used between five to 10 days and is typically covered by insurance.

Researchers in China are using the drug in clinical trials now with good results.

A new medicine can take around 18 months to get on the market, but because chloroquine phosphate is already FDA approved, it won’t take as long to get to patients diagnosed with coronavirus.

“Treatments especially if we can repurpose old drugs can be much much quicker,” James said. 

An old drug giving hope it can treat a new virus.

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