In the race for coronavirus drugs, this scientist is asking for a slower pace

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Dr. Kalil is haunted by memories of the Ebola epidemic that ravaged Africa from 2014 to 2016. Then the doctors also said they couldn’t wait for the scientific evidence and the untested drugs were given to Ebola patients by optimistic doctors with noble intentions. In the long term, none of the drugs has ever been approved in the United States for the treatment of the disease.

Today, the focus is on chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. These drugs have been tested in the laboratory against many viruses: SARS and MERS – the two coronaviruses – as well as H.I.V., dengue, Ebola, chikungunya and influenza. But even when they seemed to work, what worked in the test tube did not work in real life, said Dr. Kalil.

In fact, antimalarial drugs have never been found to be effective against any viral disease, including Ebola. (Malaria is caused by a parasite, not a virus.) And the drugs have side effects, including damage to the liver and bone marrow, and heart rhythm disturbances that can be fatal in the elderly and the elderly. young people with serious health problems.

Worse yet, said Dr. Kalil, promoting the antibiotic azithromycin in combination with antimalarial drugs to treat Covid-19 patients. Azithromycin can also cause serious heart rhythm problems, and the combination of drugs, said Dr. Kalil, has never been tested for safety in humans.

This does not mean that the drugs will not help patients with the coronavirus, but only that it does.

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