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Covid-19: Kenya bans sale of chloroquine without proper prescription

The government has banned the over-the-counter sale of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine without valid prescription after Kenyans started stockpiling the drugs.

The Pharmacy And Poisons Board on Thursday said that the clinical trials utilising the two medicines are currently ongoing and no robust clinical data substantiating their use for prophylaxis and curative purposes is available, hence caution has to be applied when using them.

“The Board therefore, prohibits all pharmacies and chemists from dispensing these two to clients without a valid prescription from a medical doctor, since there are real patients who are in need and depend on these medication every day to improve their quality of life in the management of rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and porphyria cutanea tarda,” read the statement.

It added that the irrational use of hydroxychloroquine may lead to irreversible blindness which is detrimental to the health of the general public.

The two drugs jumped to the front of the conversation following news that the United States is using them to treat SARS-COV-2.

On Tuesday, health officials warned Kenyans against self-medicating after demand for the drugs surged in Nairobi.

Dr Daniella Munene, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK), said that hoarding of the drugs will lead to a severe shortage that will affect not only those likely to get infected by the virus, but also patients with pre-existing conditions.

She said the drugs, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, are sold only on prescription, yet Kenyans have managed to get hold of, and hoard them, putting the country in great danger.

Last week, a man in the US died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate — believing it would protect him from becoming infected with the coronavirus. The man’s wife also ingested the substance and is under critical care.

The toxic ingredient they consumed was not the medication form of chloroquine, used to treat malaria in humans.

Instead, it was an ingredient listed on a parasite treatment for fish.

Chloroquine is a medication primarily used to prevent and treat malaria in areas where malaria remains sensitive to its effects.

Certain types of malaria, resistant strains, and complicated cases typically require different or additional medication.

Hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil among others, is a medication used for the prevention and treatment of certain types of malaria. Specifically, it is used for chloroquine-sensitive malaria. Other uses include treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and porphyria cutanea tarda.

Dr Munene said PSK has since warned pharmacies to observe the law and the PSK Code of Ethics in supplying the drugs.

The society warned that pharmacies that flout the Law and those found contravening its code of ethics will face disciplinary action.