In one of the oddest developments of the coronavirus crisis, there’s been a run on a pair of antimalarial drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which are used primarily in the U.S. to treat arthritis and to prevent organ damage from lupus. The drugs are being sucked out of pharmacies at an alarming rate, thanks to Americans who have convinced themselves these drugs will save them if the develop COVID-19, and thereby leaving patients who actually need these medications in danger.
This is happening in the face of only thin evidence that these drugs work against the novel coronavirus, and plenty of evidence that they don’t work. At one Paris hospital that used the drug heavily — on the recommendation of Didier Raoult, a climate change-denying French doctor with a shady reputation — the results suggest these drugs are not effective at all. Chinese doctors also concluded they were useless. These drugs are known to have some scary side effects, including sudden cardiac death in some patients. They are also notorious for psychological side effects, such as paranoia and nightmares. At least one person in the U.S. has died from swallowing aquarium cleaner that contains a similar chemical compound.