Hawaii Health Department warns about dangers of antimalarial drugs to treat coronavirus

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The state Department of Health is warning the public about potentially dangerous side effects from using non-approved antimalarial drugs to treat a coronavirus infection.

The use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine prescription medications for treating COVID-19 are “unproven and potentially dangerous,” the Health Department said in a statement today.

These two medications have been used to treat malaria and inflammatory conditions. The Health Department cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying there is no specific medicine to treat COVID-19 and no vaccine currently available.

“Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can cause severe cardiac toxicity, and in high doses over a long duration, can cause retinal damage and lead to permanent blindness,” said Dr. Alvin Bronstein, DOH Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention System Branch Chief, in a statement. “Individuals using these medications without physician supervision run serious risks of side effects and potential overdoses. Other medications are being touted, but nothing has been proven to be effective and may even do more harm than good.”

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