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Introduction: The 4-aminoquinolines, chloroquine, and hydroxychloroquine have been used for over 70 years for malaria and rheumatological conditions, respectively. Their broad-spectrum antiviral activity, excellent safety profile, tolerability, low cost, and ready availability made them prime repurposing therapeutic candidates at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.Areas covered: Here, the authors discuss the history of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, the in vitro data which led to their widespread repurposing and adoption in COVID-19 and their complex pharmacokinetics. The evidence for the use of these drugs is assessed through in vivo animal experiments and the wealth of conflicting data and interpretations published during COVID-19, including the more informative results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The safety aspects of these drugs, in particular cardiotoxicity, are then reviewed.Expert opinion: The evidence from clinical trials in COVID-19 supports the well-established safety record of the 4-aminoquinolines at currently recommended dosage. In hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 RCTs show clearly that the 4-aminoquinolines are not beneficial. The only treatments with proven benefit at this stage of infection are immunomodulators (dexamethasone, IL-6 receptor antagonists). No antiviral drugs have proven life-saving in late-stage COVID-19.

Original publication




Journal article


Expert Opin Pharmacother

Publication Date





1257 - 1266


COVID-19, Chloroquine, SARS-CoV-2, antiviral, hydroxychloroquine, pharmacokinetics, prevention, Animals, Antiviral Agents, Humans, Hydroxychloroquine, Pandemics, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 Drug Treatment