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Is Chloroquine Behind South Korea’s Super-Low Coronavirus Fatality Rate?

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:40 PM
William Ebbs
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:40 PM
  • Health authorities are exploring antimalarial drug chloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19.
  • Trump has repeatedly touted the drug, but received significant pushback from the media.
  • Korean-American actor Dae Kim may be first-hand proof of chloroquine’s ability to treat Covid-19 symptoms.

Donald Trump has taken some heat for recommending chloroquine as  a potential treatment for coronavirus . But a growing body of evidence suggests the president may be on to something.

Korean-American actor Dae Kim recently revealed that he has treated his Covid-19 symptoms with chloroquine.

Is the anti-malaria drug the secret behind South Korea’s unusually low Covid-19 death rate? The evidence is inconclusive. But U.S. authorities believe it may show promise. 

What is Chloroquine, and How Does it Work?

Chloroquine is an antimalarial drug discovered in 1934  and used to prevent malaria in much of the developing world. The drug was found to be effective at treating SARS in the early 2000s. Many doctors believe it could be useful for Covid-19 as well.

According to Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York , the drug may show some promise for Covid-19 based on its ability to treat the SARS coronavirus.

He told ABC News: 

The way that it worked against SARS was by preventing the attachment of the virus to the cells. Chloroquine interfered with the attachment to that receptor on the cell membrane surface.

Trump Believes Chloroquine is a Game Changer

Donald Trump and Elon Musk both have touted cloroquine  as a potential treatment for Covid-19. Although Trump is getting tremendous pushback in the media, with some blaming him for the deaths of Americans who used his words as an excuse to ingest harmful chemicals that contain the drug. 

According to NBC News, a 68-year-old Arizona man and his wife both ingested chloroquine phosphate  (which is used to clean aquariums) and needed to seek medical care within half an hour.

The man died and his wife is in critical condition. It’s unclear if the couple overdosed on the drug or were reacting to other harmful chemicals that they ingested in the fish tank cleaner.

But first-hand reviews of chloroquine are not all negative. Many who have used the drug in controlled medical settings report positive results.

Dae Kim Believes Chloroquine Helped Him Recover from Covid-19

Dae Kim, an actor well known for his roles in “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0”, contracted Covid-19  in New York earlier this month. According to him, his symptoms have been mild and he has self-isolated himself while taking a cocktail of medications that includes chloroquine.

This is what he had to say to his followers online: 

I won’t say that it’s a cure and I won’t say definitively that you should go out and use this, but what I will say is that I believe it was crucial to my recovery. I believe the entire mixture of drugs was crucial to my recovery.

He further states: 

That (chloroquine) has been used with great success in Korea in their fight against the coronavirus.

Which Countries are Using Chloroquine?

Several countries, including China, South Korea and Belgium, have added chloroquine to their treatment guidelines for Covid-19. The drug is not officially approved as a treatment for this indication.

It’s interesting to note that South Korea reports a remarkably low coronavirus death rate with just 120 of their 9,037  confirmed cases ending in death.

Korea reports a 1.3% case fatality rate compared to 9.5% in Italy and 1.26% in the United States. It’s unclear if South Korea’s low death rate can be attributed to chloroquine, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting them.

Many American doctors are convinced that the drug can help patients suffering from Covid-19. Off-label prescriptions are soaring, and New York state has already procured 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine and 750,000 doses of chloroquine  with plans to begin trials on Tuesday.