Chloroquine: OTC requests during the COVID-19 pandemic

23 Mar 2020

Many pharmacies are receiving requests for over-the-counter (OTC) sales of chloroquine for preventing or treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection following intense coverage of this in the news and social media. We would like to clarify the current situation on this matter.

Current Government and NHS advice for prevention or self-treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection does not advocate the use of chloroquine.

  • It is vitally important that everyone follows the Government advice on self-isolation and social distancing as preventive measures.
  • There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
  • Any treatment provided for ill patients in hospitals aims to relieve the symptoms while the body fights the infection.

 

Further information on preventive measures are available from the GOV.UK and NHS.UK websites:

 

Chloroquine is currently licensed for OTC sale/supply for malaria prophylaxis only. It is not licensed for prevention or treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

REF: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/search?q=chloroquine&filters=legalcategories[2]&offset=1&limit=50&orderBy=product&refreshFilters=true

 

NPA advice

Pharmacists and pharmacy teams are strongly advised:

  • Not to sell/supply any chloroquine OTC for preventing/treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Be cautious of any requests for OTC chloroquine; in the current pandemic situation, it is unlikely that OTC requests for chloroquine will be for malaria prophylaxis/travel purposes –
  • Not to sell/supply chloroquine OTC to themselves for personal use to prevent/treat coronavirus (COVID0-19) infection
  • Not to dispense prescriptions self-prescribed by practitioners for chloroquine for personal use.

 

Professional indemnity

NPA Professional Indemnity insurance will not cover sales or supplies of chloroquine for prevention/treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection when supplied OTC or dispensed against self-prescribed prescriptions.

 

Clinical significance

The use of chloroquine (along with hydroxychloroquine, protease inhibitors and certain other drugs) to treat coronavirus (COVID-19) infection is being researched by the UK as well as many other countries. Various countries have reported using various doses of chloroquine to treat critically ill patients with coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. However, the doses used have been far higher than those normally taken for malaria prophylaxis.

 

If the UK Government/NHS advice on the use of chloroquine (or hydroxychloroquine and certain other drugs) for prevention/treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection changes, we will issue updated advice.

 

Further reading

 

For further information please contact the NPA Pharmacy Services team on 01727 891800 or email at:  pharmacyservices@npa.co.uk.