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FDA hasn’t approved chloroquine as coronavirus treatment

March 23, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved chloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus, and it will be available immediately. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The FDA released a statement Friday clarifying that the federal agency is only investigating if the drug chloroquine can be used to treat mild or moderate cases of COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus. 

THE FACTS: President Donald Trump wrongly claimed during a March news briefing that  a chemical drug called chloroquine has been approved by the FDA and the drug would be “available almost immediately” to treat patients infected by coronavirus. 

A slew of social media posts and online articles promoting the drug as a treatment quickly followed the president’s inaccurate comments. 

There are no known cures, treatments or vaccine available for coronavirus, the FDA reiterated in a statement last week. The federal agency is investigating antiviral drugs that might be used to combat the virus. 

One of those drugs is chloroquine, which is used for treatment in cases of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and the mosquito-borne illness malaria. 

FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn clarified minutes later during the same briefing that the FDA still needs to test the drug to determine if it can treat coronavirus patients.

He said the FDA will need to test chloroquine in “a large, pragmatic clinical trial” for use in COVID-19 cases. 

“That’s a drug that the president has directed us to take a closer look at as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done, to actually see if that benefits patients,” Hahn said of chloroquine. 

Such trials typically require hundreds or thousands of patients and, even when accelerated, take weeks or months to complete. 

Doctors can prescribe chloroquine to COVID-19 patients through a practice known as off-label use, but the FDA has not cleared the drug yet for coronavirus treatment.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that drug trials to test chloroquine will begin Tuesday. 


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: