The medical history is filled with drugs that revolutionized the approach to treating certain illnesses and saved a huge number of people. Similar to the discovery of penicillin, the development of chloroquine is one of the most important medical achievements. The drug is prescribed for the prevention and treatment of malaria and to help with the symptoms of some autoimmune diseases. Moreover, there are now studies conducted to assess the influence of this drug on COVID-19 and the results seem promising. To learn more about this important drug, continue reading.
A medication with a long history
Chloroquine is one of those medications that humans have to be especially thankful for. Originally created for the treatment of malaria, the medication has been around for a long time. Malaria is a deadly mosquito-borne disease that took the lives of millions and continues to represent a threat.
When it comes to how chloroquine was developed, the first interactions of doctors with the compound called ‘quinine’ date back to the 1820s when it was extracted from cinchona bark. In 1934, Hans Andersag who worked for Bayer Company synthesized a drug called Resochin and it was later renamed chloroquine. While at first the compound was deemed toxic, the studies have shown that it was effective against malaria, Plasmodium vivax, and Plasmodium falciparum.
In 1945, the medication officially became the standard solution chosen for the prevention and treatment of malaria by the WHO. What is interesting is that the chloroquine compound was distributed not only in tablets but also in salt in areas where malaria could be contracted, such as Brazil. More than 130 million chloroquine tablets were distributed at the beginning of the 1960s. At the moment, there are a number of countries that are considered chloroquine-resistant due to the parasite mutation over the years.
What are other uses of сhloroquine?
Developed primarily as an antimalarial drug, chloroquine is also prescribed for the treatment of amoebas and parasitic worms in people.
Moreover, the medication is prescribed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus. The effect is achieved thanks to the suppressing influence of chloroquine on the immune system, which is important when treating autoimmune diseases. The medication can potentially be used for some other illnesses, but this decision should be made by a medical specialist.
COVID-19 and сhloroquine
At the moment, the medical community is still in the active search of safe and effective treatments for COVID-19. While vaccines minimize the risk of severe symptoms, finding the solution that will treat the infection during its early or later stages is still on agenda.
When it comes to chloroquine, or its derivative hydroxychloroquine, there have been plenty of discussions about whether these medications can help in the treatment of COVID-19. At the moment, there have been a number of studies conducted by professionals that show the potential effectiveness of these antimalarial drugs in reducing the symptoms of COVID-19. According to research, the drugs were well-tolerated by patients and seem to deliver effect when administered during the early stages of the disease.
A number of medical specialists came to the conclusion that it is reasonable to use chloroquine when individuals show early signs of contracting the COVID-19 infection, as it reduces the symptoms. The studies suggest that the drug is safe and there have been no signs that a condition of patients worsens when they take it. At the same time, in-depth research is still required to prove just how much results you can get by prescribing chloroquine to patients.
Ensure that the drug is safe for you
The first step before taking any drug, including chloroquine, is to make sure that you don’t have any contraindications that may prevent you from taking the tablets without the risk for your health.
You should provide a medical specialist with a full list of any health problems that you may have suffered from in the past. In relation to chloroquine, you should mention:
- Kidney or liver disease
- Any vision problems
- Low levels of magnesium or potassium in the blood
- G6PD deficiency
Any allergic reactions caused by hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in the past should be viewed as contraindications. Alcoholism is also incompatible with the use of chloroquine.
When it comes to pregnancy, malaria is extremely dangerous for a pregnant woman and it also increases the chances of stillbirth and miscarriage. At the same time, it is not clear whether chloroquine is safe to use during pregnancy. It is important for the doctor to assess all the pros and cons of using this drug in each particular case. It is also important to avoid breastfeeding while taking the drug.
Choosing the right dosage of the drug
Adhering to the dosage and schedule approved by your medical specialist is essential when you take chloroquine for any health issue. It is important that you don’t exceed the recommended dose, as overdosing can cause dangerous side effects.
The drug can be used in the following cases:
- Malaria treatment
A person who has already contracted malaria is generally recommended to take a single high dose of the drug at once. After that, a patient needs to take lower dosages for two days without skipping.
- Malaria prevention
As for preventing malaria, it is important to begin taking the drug once a week 2 weeks before you go to the area where you can contract this disease. If you took the drug on Tuesday, you should continue taking it every Tuesday for as long as you stay in the area and also continue doing so for 8 weeks after you are home.
- Rheumatoid arthritis
A single tablet a day should be taken by patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The initial prescribed dosage is often higher than the maintenance one, but the exact amount should be decided by a doctor.
- Lupus erythematosus
Similar to rheumatoid arthritis treatment, chloroquine is prescribed in the dosage of one tablet a day for patients with lupus erythematosus.
One thing to note about choosing the dosage for children, it depends on a child’s weight. It’s important to change the dosage if there are any changes in the weight when taking the drug.
It is important to take the drug for the duration recommended by your doctor even if your symptoms improve.
Chloroquine and its interaction with other drugs
Drug interactions should always be considered before adding any new drugs to the ones you already take. In some cases, taking incompatible medications can not only negate their influence but also cause dangerous side effects, so it’s something that should be taken lightly.
When you consult a medical specialist, you should provide them with the list of drugs that you currently take. It is especially important that your doctor knows if you take any of the following drugs:
- Any diabetes drugs
Those taking Ampicillin should make sure that they take chloroquine 2 hours before or 2 hours after taking the antibiotic.
The drugs mentioned here are not the only ones that may interact with chloroquine. To minimize the risk, you should mention all the herbal supplements, vitamins, and medications to your medical specialist.
Warnings and precautions
Being careful is always important when taking any medication. When it comes to chloroquine, some of the precautions you need to follow are:
- If you just started taking the drug and you don’t know how your body will react, you should avoid operating any machinery, driving, or engaging in other dangerous activities. The reason is that this medication may cause blurred vision in some people.
- A history of vision problems and retina damage are a contraindication to taking this drug. It is important to undergo regular eye checkups when taking chloroquine.
- Remember that the consumption of chloroquine still requires you to use insect repellents, mosquito nets, and protective clothing. The medication reduces the risk of contracting malaria to a minimum, but you should always use additional protective measures along with taking tablets.
- Avoid self-treating if you notice the symptoms of malaria, whether you already take the drug or not. Always consult a medical specialist to get the right dosage and prevent any potential side effects.
What adverse reactions can be caused by this drug?
When you take a dosage recommended by a doctor and don’t have any contraindications, chloroquine is considered a well-tolerated drug. It is important to be aware of potential side effects so that you know what to do if you have individual sensitivity to this medication.
Some of the symptoms that you may notice if you get an allergic reaction include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling in the lips, face, tongue, or throat
- Various skin reactions
- Burning eyes
If you notice any of these symptoms after taking chloroquine, you should get emergency medical help immediately and stop taking the drug.
Common adverse reactions associated with chloroquine may include the following:
- Sudden mood changes
- Stomach ache
- Skin color changes
You should inform your doctor if you experience such symptoms, as you may have an individual sensitivity to this medication.
Severe reactions to this medication are less frequent and they may include:
- Hearing problems
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Signs of low blood sugar, such as dizziness, anxiousness, fast heart rate, etc.
- Unusual bleeding
- Skin sores
- Shortness of breath
Those who experience these or any other severe adverse reactions should not hesitate and get emergency medical help. Any symptoms associated with heart problems (arrhythmia, fast heartbeats, dizziness, etc.) require medical attention.
One of the consequences of prolonged consumption of high doses of this medication is that it may cause vision problems. For this reason, frequent eye examinations are essential for those who take this drug on a regular basis. The symptoms of eye problems may include such:
- Light sensitivity
- Changes in color perception
- Reduced night vision
- Cloudy vision
- Seeing halos or light flashes around objects
You should not continue taking the drug if you notice such symptoms and you need to contact your doctor immediately.
Recommended drug storage
You should always ensure that your drug is stored in proper conditions so that its quality doesn’t change over time. Make sure that you keep chloroquine in its original packaging away from the sources of light, moisture, and heat. If you notice that tablets change color, develop an unusual smell, or change their appearance in any way, you should discard them. Do not consume the medication after its expiration date, as this can cause side effects. It is also important to keep the drug out of reach of children and pets.
We may still have a lot to learn about сhloroquine
Despite being around for such a long time, chloroquine is still a widely used medication. It is an effective antimalarial and immunosuppressive solution that helped millions of people around the world. While it is a well-known drug, the medical community still continues to study its properties, as it may turn out to be effective for other health problems. With the COVID-19 pandemic still relevant, there have been studies that suggest the effectiveness of chloroquine in reducing the symptoms caused by the virus.