Dr Noor Hisham: Health Ministry to use hydroxychloroquine more cautiously in Covid-19 trials

Jerry Choong
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Health Ministry will continue to use the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in its trials to develop a treatment against Covid-19. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, May 26 — The Health Ministry will continue to use the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in its trials to develop a treatment against Covid-19, said its director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said hydroxychloroquine is one of the drugs being looked into by the ministry, as part of its solidarity trial study.

“As you may know, it has side effects, which vary from person to person, so there needs to be close monitoring by doctors,” Dr Noor Hisham said during the daily press conference.

He said the drug is currently being used off-label for a five-day period, as from the ministry’s experience it is used on Category One and Two patients since it assists in preventing Covid-19 from developing into its third and fourth stages.

“Our experts are now looking at the available data, gathering data to determine if using the drug is effective. However, one of hydroxychloroquine’s side effects includes a longer QT interval for the heart.

“So if using the drug to treat a patient induces a longer QT interval in the individual, we will have to stop it or else the heart will fail,” Dr Noor Hisham said, adding the ministry will continue its usage more cautiously than before.

The director-general was responding to reports of the World Health Organisation (WHO) stopping a clinical trial for hydroxychloroquine until further literature review is available on its side-effects.

WHO’s reaction was due to a research paper published in a peer-reviewed medical journal which indicated those taking the drug faced a higher risk of heart problems and death, compared to those who did not.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham also reminded the public to properly dispose of used face masks in closed bins, stating it is a “collective responsibility”.

“If someone has been experiencing a cold or other symptoms, then the face masks they were wearing would carry bacteria. So getting rid of them appropriately, and not irresponsibly, is very important,” he said.


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