On 16 March 2020, Professor Raoult, renowned French virologist, announced that a trial involving 24 patients from the south east of France supported the claim that chloroquine was an effective treatment for COVID-19.
600mg of hydroxychloroquine (brand name Plaquenil) was administered to these patients every day for 10 days. While chloroquine has a long safety record, the patients were closely monitored for drug interactions and potential severe side effects. The drug appeared to be responsible for a "rapid and effective speeding up of their healing process, and a sharp decrease in the amount of time they remained contagious".
The study also suggested that taking chloroquine in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin - which is known to be effective against complications from bacterial lung disease - led to even better outcomes. Professor Raoult said the results showed "a spectacular reduction in the number of positive cases" with the combination therapy. At 6 days, among patients given combination therapy, the percentage of cases still carrying SARS-CoV-2 was no more than 5%.
The French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, was reported as announcing that "new tests will now go ahead in order to evaluate the results by Professor Raoult, in an attempt to independently replicate the trials and ensure the findings are scientifically robust enough, before any possible decision might be made to roll any treatment out to the wider public".The French media also reported that the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi had offered French authorities millions of doses of the drug for use against COVID-19.
President Trump said in a Thursday press briefing that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, drugs used to treat malaria and severe arthritis, were approved by the Food and Drug Administration to test as a COVID-19 coronavirus treatment, as the number of cases nationwide continues to increase.