The South African Health Products
Regulatory Agency (SAHPRA) has cautioned against medicine stockpiling including chloroquine-containing products.
addition to licensing medicines that are safe, effective and of good quality,
SAHPRA is also responsible for monitoring the use and misuse of medicines that
are already on the market. One form of medicine misuse is stockpiling of
medicines, particularly for use outside of the conditions of licensing (e.g.
for indications that are not approved).
It has come to SAHPRA’s attention that
there is a rush by the public to acquire and store chloroquine containing
products from pharmacies in anticipation of a potential COVID-19 infection.
This is probably in response to various media reports suggesting the potential
value of this medicine in managing patients infected with COVID-19 and fears of
contracting the coronavirus infection.
Chloroquine is regarded as a Schedule 2
antimalarial agent, used in combination with proguanil for malaria prevention
and Schedule 4 when used for malaria treatment. Recent reports suggest that
chloroquine (among various other treatments) may have some benefit in treating
patients with the more severe form of the disease This kind of stockpiling of
medicines on a large scale can have drastic consequences on people’s access to
important and potentially life-saving medicines when they are actually needed
and is therefore strongly discouraged.
SAHPRA wishes to reiterate that the use of
chloroquine and other treatments mentioned in the media for the management of
coronavirus is still investigational where both the benefits as well as the
potential risks of these treatment in patients is still being carefully
studied. An international clinical trial, called the Solidarity Trial, under
the aegis of the World Health Organization is underway to accumulate as much
evidence as possible about the merit of chloroquine as well as other medicines
for the management of the more severe forms of the coronavirus COVID-19. The
public is reminded that the vast majority (approximately 80%) of patients who
get infected with COVID-19 will only manifest with mild symptoms and will
recover fully. If is therefore imperative that adequate stocks of these
investigational treatments are always easily available for those who progress
to the more severe form of the disease.
Medicine stockpiling by those who do not
need chloroquine and other investigational treatments for COVID-19 could have
important negative public health consequences including our ability to
effectively respond to this international crisis. Therefore, SAHPRA urges the
pharmacies to effectively manage the access to chloroquine containing products
and limit any possible stock piling as it could lead to shortages of these
medicines for those patients who may really need them.