Despite warnings about taking hydroxychloroquine to fight the symptoms of COVID-19, prescriptions in France have increased by up to 7,000% in parts of the country since the start of the pandemic.
As La Provence reports, a study of the 466 million French prescriptions written since the start of the pandemic in France, shows a huge surge of doctors prescribing the drug. In the last week of March, for example, more than 10,000 people were prescribed hydroxychloroquine only in Marseille.
Hydroxychloroquine is at the heart of an angry debate on how to treat coronavirus
In France and the United States, the use of hydroxychloroquine was stretched between those who think the risks are low enough to warrant widespread use; and those who think more research is needed before widespread prescription.
Following research carried out in China, a French doctor, Didier Raoult–head of the IHU, the Institute of Infectious Diseases of Marseille –said in early March that they had successfully treated patients with coronavirus with the drug. Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug also used to treat people with lupus. It is sold under its merchant name Plaquénil in France.
Shortly after, President Trump tweeted the same news as a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may work with patients. The latter is an antibacterial drug, administered in tandem, to eliminate the risk of bacterial infection.
Health professionals have been quick to point out that no one should use the drug without new research clearly showing that the drugs work in a peer-reviewed clinical trial. Trump advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci downplayed the effects of the drug as purely “anecdotal,” and others warned that the drug can have serious health effects if taken unattended, such as heart problems. .
Prescriptions have increased in France, but especially in Paris and Marseille
Before the pandemic, an average of 50 prescriptions were written each day in Marseille to hydroxychloroquine. Tthe next day Didier Raoult announced his conclusions in Marseille, this figure having increased to 450 per day. By March 18, that figure had jumped again and there were 5,000 prescriptions in a single day across France.
The researchers believe that 41,000 people received the drug between March 16 and April 19.
Prescriptions are higher in Paris and Marseille (where Didier Raoult heads the IHU, the Institute of Infectious Diseases). The study also noted that most of the people who had access to the drug across France were from higher socio-economic groups.