- The US president made the claim at the White House on Thursday
- The drug is disappearing from pharmacy shelves in Lagos and Abuja at higher cost
- A 6-week-old baby among latest cases in Nigeria
President Donald Trump says the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved chloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and severe arthritis, for coronavirus treatment.
The US president said this at a press conference on Thursday.
“It (chloroquine) has been around for a long time and it’s very powerful… We know if things do not go as planned, it isn’t going to kill anybody. When you go with a brand new drug, you don’t know,” he said.
“It could be a game-changer.”
But Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner, came just short of dismissing the US president’s claim as false. He said the agency was still working to examine all possibilities.
“In the short term, we’re looking at drugs that are already approved for other indications,” Hahn said.
Trump had earlier on called on US health regulators to expedite potential therapies aimed at treating COVID-19 amid the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, saying it could lead to a breakthrough while a vaccine is still under development.
Rush for chloroquine
A few hours after President Trump said chloroquine had been approved to treat COVID-19, the demand for the drug increased in stores across Lagos and Abuja. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, health experts had dismissed speculations that chloroquine could be used in fighting the virus. But the story changed for many after Trump’s Thursday briefing at the White House.
Chloroquine, an oral artemisinin-based monotherapies (oAMTs) for malaria treatment, could become a scarce commodity in a matter of days. TheCable reported how people were rushing to get the drugs on Thursday evening.
At Chris Health Pharmacy, Onilekere area of Lagos, the store owner who gave his name as Chris said he had yet to understand why people trooped in to buy chloroquine.
“I have about 20 packs left and all finished this evening. In fact, only one person bought 15 packs. He said he would return tomorrow when I have more,” he told TheCable.
Chris who appeared not to have followed the news lately asked: “Please, what is happening? Why are people buying chloroquine?”
At the Ojota/Ogudu axis, people also rushed to buy chloroquine. When TheCable visited Neat Line Pharmacy on Ogudu road, the attendant said the available drug was not for adults but Children.
A lady who came in and bought six chloroquine syrup for children said: “They said it was 50:50 cure for coronavirus before, but the US president confirmed today that it should be used for coronavirus. I’m sure the prices would go up immediately.”
A pharmacy at Jendol Superstores in Isheri Olofin, chloroquine was not available but a roadside shop had it at the rate of N150 per sachet. When TheCable visited Abek Pharmacy at Old Ipaja road in Agege, the attendant said chloroquine was still available also at the rate of N150.
At Christhes Pharmacy along Ijegun-Ikotun road, Alimosho, the attendant said chloroquine was also available but sold for N250
One of the store owners in Ijegun who identified himself as Moses said the drug has been in high demand as he had received more orders in just six hours.
The product was unavailable at Skylife Standard Pharmacy on college road, Ogba. The pharmacist said: “People rushed in to buy this evening as soon the announcement was made that it could cure coronavirus.”
Three of the pharmacies in Garki area of Abuja were selling the drug within the price range of N200 to N250, while it sold for N500 in another.
At Glotop Pharmacy, located close to Apo legislative quarters, the drug was already sold out at the rate of N500.
“It was not in high demand before but people have been rushing it,” an official at the pharmacy said.
At Augustina Medical Complex in Durumi, the drug was sold at N200 even as the attendant said there has not been any noticeable difference in the demand.
It was the same situation at Dorathyl Pharmacy, also in Durumi, except that it was sold for N250.
The last packet was being sold for N150 as TheCable got to Zochem Pharmacy in Abuja. The store owner, however, said he had placed orders for more and from Friday, he would sell for N500 or even more.
The drug was sold out at Jessi-Jen pharmacy in Abuja but at the Eleventh Pharmacy also in Abuja, a packet that used to be N300 is now selling for N800.
Meanwhile, a six-week-old baby has been reported to be among the latest coronavirus cases confirmed in Nigeria.
On Tuesday, the country recorded the third case of the virus through a 30-year-old Nigerian who came into the country on March 13 on a British Airways flight.
Speaking during a press briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, confirmed five new cases of the coronavirus in the country.
He said the patients had a travel history to the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We have a mother and child (Nigerian) who arrived Lagos on 13th March, 2020 from California on Virgin Atlantic flight number VS411.
The child is six weeks old. The outbreak has led to several decisions by governments in the form of measures to limit the spread of the disease”.
The federal government has placed a travel ban on 13 countries, including China, the UK and the US.
According to The Spectator Index, the number of cases of the disease is now hitting high above 200,000 worldwide with the official number of cases in Nigeria put at 12, at press time.
For daily updates you may visit: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/