Many risks and unknowns remain about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. (Courtesy of
Many risks and unknowns remain about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. (Courtesy of

A leading D.C. pharmacist says people should be educated on the well-known drugs that have been linked to treating the coronavirus and offers tips for those who are suffering from the disease or wish to avoid it.

Since the coronavirus became widespread in the United States in March, there are some drugs that have gained attention that may be the best to treat the affliction. Abimola A. Ogunsunlade, the director of pharmacy services at Howard University Hospital, has become familiar with two of those drugs — hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir — and their impact on the human body, especially in relation to the coronavirus.

“The antiviral drug, hydroxychloroquine, has been used for many decades to treat malaria and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus,” Ogunsunlade told The Informer. “In vitro studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine has antiviral properties against SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Ogunsunlade said hydroxychloroquine blocks the virus from entering and multiplying inside the cells. She said hydroxychloroquine’s safeness or helpfulness in fighting the coronavirus isn’t yet clear to doctors and scientists.

“Sometimes new treatment ideas turn out to help and sometimes they are actually proven to be harmful,” Ogunsunlade said. She noted that medical evidence has surfaced that hydroxychloroquine has been linked to abnormal heart rhythms and “dangerous rapid heart rates.”

In addition, Dr. Sherrol Reynolds, the president of the National Optometric Association, the trade association of Black optometrists, told the Informer hydroxychloroquine has been linked to vision problems that if used over a long term may lead to blindness.

Ogunsunlade said the Food and Drug Administration has warned COVID-19 patients against using hydroxychloroquine outside of clinical trials and in hospital settings, due to the heart rhythm problems. While hydroxychloroquine qualities for fighting the coronavirus are questionable, according to Ogunsunlade, she has more confidence in remdesivir.

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug that gained notoriety as a drug to treat Ebola. She said that while remdesivir didn’t work well against Ebola, “it has proven to be promising treating some COVID-19-related diseases.”

Remdesivir has been proven to stop the virus from multiplying and infecting more cells in the body, Ogunsunlade said.

“It is the best treatment against the coronavirus and can speed up the recovery of patients,” she said.

While hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir possess properties that can be used against the coronavirus, Ogunsunlade stresses that the virus has no cure.

“There are no proven treatments for COVID-19 and there is no vaccine,” she said. “It is important to acknowledge that there is no known therapeutic intervention that has unequivocally been proven to improve the outcome of COVID-19.”

Ogunsunlade said while a cure doesn’t exist for the coronavirus, people who are suffering from it should be able to recover at home. She said COVID-19 patients should get proper rest, stay well-hydrated and take prescribed medications for fever, aches and pains. If it appears that more severe symptoms set in, Ogunsunlade said immediate medical attention should be sought.

“If you have trouble breathing, call 911,” she said.

For those who wish to avoid getting the virus, she said certain vitamins and zinc could possibly keep one healthy.

“Vitamin C has qualities in it that boosts healthy immune functions and reduces the severity of symptoms,” Ogunsunlade said. “There is speculation that vitamin D may be able to reduce the spread of the disease.”

She also said zinc may have qualities that will help stop the spread of the virus if it exists in the body.

However, she strongly advises using over-the-counter medications to fight the coronavirus.

“Before taking any vitamins or other anything else, a pharmacist or physician should be consulted,” Ogunsunlade said. “If someone wants to remain healthy, they should avoid exposure to the virus. They can do that by cleaning everywhere they are, staying six feet from people and washing their hands often.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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