DOCTORS are urging people not to use hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure or prevention for COVID-19.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners warning follows right wing commentator and Sky News host Rowan Dean arguing that doctors and patients should be free to decide whether to take hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
It comes as Victoria records 410 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths, the highest daily death toll during the pandemic, and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announces that Queensland will trial COVID-19 testing in pharmacies to boost testing capability in Queensland.
Last week, Sydney-based Liberal MP Craig Kelly claimed that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews could be criminally liable for blocking the use of the drug to treat the virus.
The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce has strongly recommended against use of the drug, saying it should not be used as a treatment for anyone with COVID-19. It also recommends against the use of hydroxychloroquine for post-exposure prophylaxis.
These drugs have risen to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic after reports that billionaire Clive Palmer bought almost 33 million doses of hydroxychloroquine while also taking out full-page newspaper advertisements stating the drug could "wipe out the virus".
US president Donald Trump confirmed earlier this year he was taking hydroxychloroquine to ward off COVID-19, despite US doctors warning it might be unsafe.
GP Victorian chairperson Cameron Loy said: "The pandemic is causing a lot of anxiety and many people are looking for a 'magic bullet' that will keep us safe.
"There are several trials featuring this drug occurring across the globe, including an Australian clinical trial featuring 2000 frontline healthcare workers
"However, the evidence base is simply not there to say that hydroxychloroquine can be used to prevent the COVID-19 virus or treat it.
"The results of trials so far have proven inconclusive or found the drug to be ineffective as a treatment. It can also have severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately."
Dr Loy warned that sourcing the drug to treat or prevent COVID-19 could have disastrous consequences.
"Rowan Dean asked 'what do we have to lose if we embrace such treatments?' That is an excellent question with a simple answer.
"... Off-label use of hydroxychloroquine can have significant consequences for patients who are normally prescribed the drug for various medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
"If people rush out and acquire hydroxychloroquine, patients may not be able access it due to inappropriate use reducing stock levels. It is vital that we have enough stock available for those who actually need this drug right now so please think about them."
As part of the Expert Advice Matters campaign the RACGP urged all patients to take care of their wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic and listen to the experts for all medical advice. The campaign will return to the market this week and the advert can be viewed online at: