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Some Taking Chloroquine Have Serious Side Effects, Including Psychosis

The antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is being touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19, but evidence supporting its use in patients remains murky. (Adobe Stock)
The antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is being touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19, but evidence supporting its use in patients remains murky. (Adobe Stock)
April 9, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Some experts warn chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, recently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19, can trigger serious psychiatric effects.

Dr. Remington Nevin, a physician, epidemiologist and faculty associate in the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University, says studies have shown that in some people the drugs can trigger a range of neurological side effects, including psychosis, depression, paranoia and anxiety.

Nevin says mental health disorders potentially could skyrocket if large segments of the population begin taking the drugs.

"If we are going to proceed down this road, at the very least, we should ensure the public is aware of the drug's dangers," he stresses. "Use of this drug on a wide scale will result in an increase in mental illness in the population."

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine emerged during World War II as a way to prevent soldiers from contracting malaria spread by mosquitoes.

President Donald Trump consistently has made statements supporting use of the drugs for treating people infected with the new coronavirus.

Nevin adds the negative psychiatric effects experienced by individuals taking chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have been documented in small case studies.

"So again, these drugs are what we call idiosyncratic neurotoxins," he explains. "Which means that some people tolerate them perfectly well, without any side effects, whereas others are particularly sensitive to these effects."

It's also unclear if the antimalarials are effective against COVID-19.

One study by French researchers found hydroxychloroquine had no apparent effect on the immune system's ability to get rid of the virus.

The findings conflict with other studies from Wuhan, China showing that in some patients with mild infections, hydroxychloroquine appeared to reduce their symptoms.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR