Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and other prominent institutions conclude that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could be dangerous when combined with the common diabetes drug called metformin. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, there are many studies incorporating the anti-malarial drug as a possible treatment to SARS-COV-2. This recent research will cause diabetics on metformin to pause and consider, if they contract COVID-19, to think twice before participating in a study with this anti-malarial treatment. Clearly, more research is needed and physicians need to be aware of this recent finding.
The anti-malarial drugs of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were touted by U.S. president Donald Trump as potential “game changers” and TrialSite News, along with many other outlets, have cautioned that these drugs are not proven yet when it comes to treating COVID-19.
What are chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine used for?
These drugs have been traditionally used for malaria and certain autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. A number of sponsors have commenced clinical trials to investigate the use of the drugs as applied to certain cancers as well.
A multi-center research team recently published their results on scientific pre-print server BioRxiv, which reveals that 30-40% of mice treated with the mixture of either chloroquine and/or hydroxychloroquine and metformin, a popular diabetes drug, died.
The study authors noted in their abstract that although they cannot be sure if the death of mice can be translated to toxicity in humans they are concerned enough by reports of the use of chloroquine resulting in toxicity and at least one death since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization (EAU) for the drugs.
The study authors caution that there is a potential serious clinical toxicity mixing these drugs.
Study Author Comments
Chi Dang, director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, noted, “Our interest in this combination arose because both drugs individually have been shown to have anti-tumor effects in pancreatic cancer” as read from a statement. Additionally, study author Anirban Maitra scientific director of the Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center also commented, “To our utter surprise, both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine when combined with metformin resulted in a surprising death rate in 30-40% of mice. In contrast there were no deaths in the single treatment groups.”
- N.V Rajeshkumar, Johns Hopkins University
- Shinichi Yabuuchi, Johns Hopkins University
- Shweta G. Pai, assistant professor, Johns Hopkins University
- Anirban Maitra, scientific director of the Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center
- Manuel Hidalgo, Weill Cornell Medicine
- Chi V. Dang, director, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
Call to Action: With the ongoing pandemic those with diabetes and taking metformin should mention this study to their physician.