TAIPEI (CNA) — Quinoline antimalarial drugs, which have recently been discussed as a possible treatment for the COVID-19 coronavirus, are produced in Taiwan and could be made available if testing proves them to be effective, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Thursday.
In a recent small French study, doctors used one drug in the quinoline family — hydroxychloroquine — to successfully reduce the duration and severity of COVID-19 in patients suffering mild symptoms, CECC expert Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said at a press conference.
If properly tested and approved, a process that normally takes from one year to 18 months, the drug could conceivably reduce the burden on medical resources such as quarantine facilities, Chang said.
In terms of availability, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the CECC, said there is one manufacturer of quinoline drugs in Taiwan, adding that if the treatment is proved to be a viable treatment, the government’s first priority would be to guarantee domestic supply.
The government could participate in the distribution of the drug on the precondition of not harming the manufacturer’s commercial interests, Chen said.
Internationally, he continued, drug distribution rights could be used diplomatically, as a way of building ties with international partners to address their respective shortages during the pandemic.
Drugs seen as potentially effective against COVID-19, such as the antiviral medicine remdesivir, have become the subject of heated competition in recent weeks, as governments scramble to combat the disease.
The latter drug, which is being used on a trial basis in Taiwan, has reduced the fevers of all three patients who have taken it, though the drug’s effect on overall recovery time is still being studied, Chang said.
Responding to recent reports about a shortage of ventilators in parts of Europe and the United States, CECC official Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said Taiwan has over 1,000 of the machines which is likely sufficient.
Clinical testing has shown that only around 10 percent of COVID-19 patients require ventilators, meaning that Taiwan would need 10,000 simultaneous cases to hit its capacity of 1,000, Chuang said.
To date, only seven of Taiwan’s 252 COVID-19 patients have had to use ventilators, he added.