Belgium's Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) is reserving hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, for patients who really need it in light of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).
The drug, marketed under the name Plaquenil, has entered clinical trials in France and the United States, and its results against Covid-19 are promising, according to Le Vif/L'Express on Tuesday. Belgium has also started clinical trials for experimental treatments against the coronavirus.
The FAMHP has asked distributors of the product to reserve it for hospitals treating patients with the coronavirus, as well as pharmacies, where people with a medical prescription can obtain it.
"Using the limited stocks of these medicines for unnecessary or unjustified preventive treatments jeopardises the availability of these medicines for patients who need them: chronic patients and hospital patients seriously affected by Covid-19," the agency said. The anti-malarial drug is also used against diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
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The agency has secured a strategic reserve to treat nearly 22,000 patients with the coronavirus, to distributed over the various hospitals from Tuesday 24 March.
Gebruik van (hydroxy)chloroquine is off-label en met risico's (interacties, ernstige bijwerkingen), nog geen effect aangetoond voor genezing van COVID-19 en zeker niet preventief. Opgelet met azithromycine: nog geen bewezen werkzaamheid tegen COVID-19 en tal van risico’s! 2/2
— FAGG (@FAGG_be) March 21, 2020
Translation: "The FAMHP has already taken measures. Within a few days, each hospital receives hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients. 64 kg = good for 22,000 patients. A second batch of chloroquine phosphate will follow."
"Use of (hydroxy)chloroquine is off-label and with risks (interactions, serious side effects), no effect has yet been demonstrated for curing COVID-19 and certainly not preventative. Pay attention with azithromycin: no proven efficacy yet against COVID-19 and numerous risks!"
The FAMHP will ensure the monitoring of the stocks several times a week. "From Thursday onwards, 50 kilos of chloroquine phosphate will also be distributed to hospitals," the agency said, adding that this is another chemical formula of the product.
The Brussels Times