Advisers to government ‘cautiously hopeful’ of COVID-19 treatment

The Federal Health Minister has ‘struck a deal’ with suppliers to bring hydroxychloroquine into Australia to treat hospital patients infected with COVID-19

Speaking on A Current Affair this week, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed he had recently organised a deal with an international supplier to get further supplies of the drug – touted as a treatment for COVID-19 infection – into Australia.

“I’ve just come off a call with an international supplier where I am confident we will have a significant supply of hydroxychloroquine, which will be available if doctors wish to use them with patients who are in hospital,” said Minister Hunt.

“Those are the terms, that’s breaking news as we speak.”

Hydroxychloroquine is registered by the TGA in Australia for use in rheumatoid arthritis, mild systemic and discoid lupus erythematosus, and the suppression and treatment of malaria.

Administration of the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 infection is based on in-vitro evidence of activity against SARS coronavirus, as well as the preliminary results from a small, non-randomised French study showing that the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin reduced viral load in people with COVID-19 infection.

However Australian academics have explained there is a need for a rigorous and sufficiently large randomised clinical trial before the drug is used as a treatment for COVID-19.

Clinical trials are currently underway to test the drug for the indication however so far results of these trials are not yet available.

Minister Hunt told ACA that the advice provided to him from the international suppliers as well as two Australian scientific groups he has spoken to is that “they are cautiously hopeful that it can have an impact”.

“It’s not a perfect cure, it’s not a perfect prevention, it’s not fully proven but there have been some promising trials around the world,” said Minister Hunt.

The news of its incoming use for COVID-19 in Australia comes after US Food and Drug Administration moved to allow hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine from the country’s national stockpile to be distributed and used for certain hospitalised patients infected with the virus.

See the full US story here

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