COVID-19: Is chloroquinine the answer?

COVID-19. Coronavirus. Coronapocalypse.

Whatever you call it, we are embarking on uncertain times. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and “social distancing” isn’t just a fancy hashtag.  It’s a necessary measure to contain the spread of this thing. As we should.

As of this date- March 20- here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, we have 11 new cases in one day, bringing the total (that we know of) to 43. Given the lack of resources and testing kits, we may never know how many actual cases we have here. Nevertheless, the reported cases are concerning, not just for where I live, but across the country in all 50 states. And the world.

Eat-in restaurants are ordered to shut down. Schools are out for the rest of the year. Stores ran out of non-perishables. People are hoarding things. (And as an aside, I’m immunocompromised because of an antibiotic and have not been able to find face masks ANYWHERE… but that’s a whole other article).

I’ve been a healthcare advocate for well over a decade, after an antibiotic called Levaquin disabled me. It made me realize that adverse events are largely hidden from the public, drugs are fast-tracked through the FDA, and that there are a lot of failures within healthcare. I’ve collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding drug safety surrounding the appropriate use of fluoroquinolones. I also serve as a Special Government Employee (SGE) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

To quote Farmers insurance ads, “I know a thing or two, because I’ve seen a thing or two”.

The conversation turns to treatment when there is a pandemic and pharmaceutical companies are rushing to come up with the next-best-thing for a cure. I’m concerned about this pandemic but there is an added layer to my concerns.


Chloroquinine became a household name overnight and because of my experience and expertise in medication safety, I’m often asked my thoughts on it.

Chloroquinine is an old-school anti-malarial drug discovered by Bayer. It was largely dismissed because it was considered too toxic for human consumption. It is the basis of current fluoroquinolone antibiotics. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I have some very strong thoughts about fluoroquinolone antibiotics like Levaquin, Cipro, and Avelox. [Click here for information about fluoroquinolones]

Chloroquine is a cousin of quinolone antibiotics, or quinolone-adjacent. Quinolones are essentially chloroquinine + nalidixic acid. Many of the early quinolones were removed from the market because of its toxicity. Then came the emergence of current fluoroquinolones, which is chloroquinine + nalidixic acid + fluorine atom. The FDA ruled in 2015 that fluoroquinolone antibiotics carries more risk than benefit. This came after 35 patients who were harmed by Levaquin, Cipro, and Avelox, including myself testified at the FDA about the permanent adverse events we suffered.

I mention this because I’m trying to show a pattern of toxicity and why I am speaking up about my concerns.

To combat this novel coronavirus, pharmaceutical companies are racing to find a treatment and in a recent press conference, chloroquinine and hydrochloroquinine (Plaquenil) were mentioned as possible COVID treatment. I’m scared that we are making decisions without reliable data and that more harm than good will come of this. Fast-tracking through the FDA sounds like a good thing, but often, it isn’t. Approving something and asking questions later has led to years- even decades- of suffering before evidence comes around saying something isn’t safe after all.

I realize that lives are at stake here. But as always in my advocacy, I believe that consumers have the right to as much information as is available so they can make an informed decision about their health.

Hydrochloroquinine, or Plaquenil, comes with the same adverse events as fluoroquinolone antibiotics: gastrointestinal issues, psychosis, brain fog, cardiac issues, and peripheral, autonomic and nervous system dysfunction- and more, including death.

Very little is known about the coronavirus. Very little is known when drugs are fast-tracked. Are we adding fuel to the fire with chloroquinine or hydrocloroquinine? That depends on how you look at it, I suppose.

My own personal opinion is this: as with fluoroquinolones, they have the capacity to save lives, but they also have the capacity to harm. Perhaps chloroquinine is appropriate for severe cases or when there is no other alternative available. That is between a patient and their healthcare provider, and I’m not a doctor. All I’m saying is thoroughly research any drug or treatment before taking them. Otherwise, we are going to see more risk on top of an already risky situation.

I will say this: chloroquinine, or any other drug for that matter, has not been proven to treat or prevent coronavirus safely and effectively. This fact must be considered when making a decision.

One of the ways to contain coronavirus is to maintain social distancing, wash your hands, and take measures to prevent it in the first place.


Confirmed cases in Charlotte-Mecklenburg updates:

March 21- Went from 43 cases confirmed to 77.

March 22- 80

March 23- 97

March 26- 204

March 27: 259

March 28- 299

March 29- 315

March 30- 382

April 1- 533

April 3- 601

April 5- 665

April 6- 733

April 7- 810

April 8- 839

April 10- 906

April 15- 1,015

April 17- 1,136

April 21- 1,255

April 22- 1,331

April 23- 1,377

April 24- 1,424

April 27- 1,492

May 3- 1,724

May 8- 1,983

May 9- 2,055

May 10- 2,074

May 12- 2,158

May 13- 2,283

May 15- 2,374

May 18- 2,646

May 19- 2,695

May 27- 3,530

June 1- 4,412

June 16- 7,117

June 19- 7,767

June 30- 10,367

July 1- 10,829

July 14- 14,981

July 18- 16,603

August 26- 24,952

September 1- 25,575