Chloroquine shortage after news on social media.

Karachi and Lahore along with other major cities of Pakistan are facing shortage of medicines having hydroxychloroquine phosphate, known as chloroquine. Pharmacies have reported that they are running out of this medicine after news on social media spread like wildfire that this drug was effective in treating patients suffering from COVID-19 coronavirus.

Customers’ demand for Plaquenil and Resochin skyrocketed after the news spread on social media and many pharmacy chains in Karachi including Nice Pharmacy, New way Pharmacy, Kausar Medicos and Bin Hashim Pharmacy have confirmed the shortage of chloroquine. Both of the medicines are over-the-counter drugs and are used commonly for treating malaria.

chloroquine tablets are in high demand

When asked about the availability of Resochin , a sales person at Bin Hashim Pharmacy said, “We are out of stock since yesterday.”

There had been a very high demand in customers coming in to buy Resochin according to the salesman. He said they were not selling Plaquenil at Bin Hashim. He told us that Resochin was being sold at Rs25 per packet (10 tablets) at the pharmacy before stocks ended.

A customer service employee at Kausar Medicos on Karachi’s MA Jinnah road said they were out of both Resochin and Plaquenil.

Renowned pharmacist Fazal Din and Sons along with Mahmood Pharmacy were also out of stock in Lahore.

Sindh Health Department’s media coordinator, Meeran Yousuf, said the issue of pharmacies running out of medicines was brought to the government’s notice today.

Yousuf said there were side effects associated with the use of these drugs which could exacerbate existing health conditions in some patients and advised against bulk buying and use of the medicine without consulting a doctor.

She said the issue will be discussed during today’s task force meeting of the Sindh virus response team, which is headed by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

Does it really work?

The success of hydroxychloroquine in treating patients with the novel coronavirus is not completely unfounded. Recent studies have shown two drugs, remdesivir and chloroquine phosphate, efficiently inhibited the coronavirus in an experimental setting.

An article published on Feb 4, 2020 in the Cell Journal – a prestigious international journal in life sciences with a current Impact Factor of 17.848 – confirmed that both remdesivir and chloroquine had some success in treating the novel virus.

A recent article, published on March 12 in the The Chinese Journal of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases found that treating patients diagnosed as having the novel coronavirus pneumonia with chloroquine “might improve the success rate of treatment, shorten hospital stay and improve patient outcome”.

Read: Lassa fever takes 161 lives in Nigeria

After these findings, a group of researchers of the Department of Science and Technology in China’s Guangdong Province in consultation with the province’s health commission developed “expert consensus in recommending chloroquine phosphate tablet, 500mg twice per day for 10 days for patients diagnosed as mild, moderate and severe cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia”.

Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota said on March 17 it was launching a clinical trial to test hydroxychloroquine as a “post-exposure treatment for coronavirus COVID-19 disease” because “recent work shows that hydroxychloroquine is active in a laboratory setting against” the novel coronavirus.

The trial is designed to see if it translates into benefits for people, the university said.

Meanwhile, United States President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the country is fast-tracking the drug for treating coronavirus.

During a White House press conference, Trump said: “[Chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine] has shown very encouraging early results […] and we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately.”

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