Malaria Drug Under Investigation for Treatment of COVID-19 in Shortage, Teva Steps in

March 20, 2020

A malaria drug that President Donald Trump said could possibly treat coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is already in short supply, according to ASHP. However, Teva said it will donate millions of tablets to US hospitals.

A malaria drug that President Donald Trump said could possibly treat coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is already in short supply, according to ASHP.1 However, Teva said it will donate millions of tablets to US hospitals.2

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which is a less toxic derivative of chloroquine, are being investigated for the potential treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19. Chloroquine is already approved for treating malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.3

In addition, the US government’s 18-month plan to handle the coronavirus pandemic said “shortages of products may occur, impacting health care, emergency services, and other elements of critical infrastructure. This includes potentially critical shortages of diagnostics, medical supplies (including PPE and pharmaceuticals), and staffing in some locations,” according to the report.4

ASHP added generic hydroxychloroquine to treat malaria to its list of shortages on March 19.1 4 out of 8 manufacturers of the drug are currently in shortage, Reuters reported.5

Pharmacists are either unable to get hydroxychloroquine or cannot fully fill the prescriptions, Erin Fox, senior director of drug information at University of Utah Health, which maintains ASHP’s shortages list, told Reuters.5

However, generic drug maker Teva Pharmaceuticals said it will donate more than 10 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to help US hospitals meet a potential surge in demand. It will donate 6 million tablets to hospitals via wholesalers by March 31, and more than 10 million within 1 month.2

Although the treatment hasn’t yet been approved for use in patients with COVID-19, Trump is urging health authorities to expand its use. According to the FDA, studies are underway to determine the efficacy of using chloroquine to treat COVID-19.3

References:

1. ASHP. Drug Shortages List. https://www.ashp.org/Drug-Shortages/Current-Shortages/Drug-Shortages-List?page=CurrentShortages. Accessed March 20, 2020.
2. Teva to Donate Potential COVID-19 Treatment, Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate Tablets to Hospitals Nationwide [news release]. Teva’s website. https://www.tevapharm.com/news-and-media/latest-news/teva-to-donate-potential-covid-19-treatment-hydroxychloroquine-sulfate-tablets-to-hospitals-nationwide-/. March 20, 2020.
3. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Continues to Facilitate Development of Treatments [news release]. FDA’s website. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-continues-facilitate-development-treatments. Accessed March 20, 2020.
4. US Government COVID-19 Response Plan. March 13, 2020. https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/6819-covid-19-response-plan/d367f758bec47cad361f/optimized/full.pdf#page=1.
5. Erman M. Potential coronavirus treatment touted by Trump already in shortage, pharmacists say. Reuters. Published March 19, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-shortages-excl/exclusive-potential-coronavirus-treatment-touted-by-trump-already-in-shortage-pharmacists-say-idUSKBN2163JD