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New York to Start Clinical Trials of Anti-Malaria Drugs for COVID-19

By Mark Prvulovic - Mar 23, 2020 at 6:12PM

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Small trials in China have raised hopes that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine might be effective against the novel coronavirus, but the data from those studies is sparse and murky.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the U.S., many state authorities are trying anything they can to address the health crisis.

On Tuesday, the state of New York will begin two clinical trials of potential treatments for COVID-19: One will study the anti-malaria drug chloroquine, and the other, a combination of the related drug  hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic Zithromax.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press briefing that he remains optimistic about these drugs. The Food and Drug Administration gave the go-ahead to test chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as potential COVID-19 treatments last week. However, other officials, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, are far from optimistic that those drugs will prove effective against the novel coronavirus.

A doctor with a stethoscope in hand pointing towards the viewer.

Image source: Getty Images.

New York has been especially hard hit by the pandemic, with the state confirming that it has over 20,000 COVID-19 infections so far. The dramatic increase in that figure is likely due to the recent ramp-up in the state's testing capabilities -- it's now able to test more 16,000 people a day. Gov. Cuomo has also asked for all hospitals across the state to double their patient capacity in anticipation of a surge of serious COVID-19 cases to come.

Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA 0.70%) announced that it would donate around 10 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to hospitals and healthcare organizations. Other companies, such as Mylan and Bayer, have made similar promises, with the latter announcing last week it would donate 3 million tablets of another malaria drug, Resochin, for use in treating COVID-19.

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