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Costa Rica to resume use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment

Costa Rican health authorities said Monday that the country plans to resume its use of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients.

The announcement came from Román Macaya, the executive president of the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS), even as he acknowledged the drug’s efficacy against COVID-19 has not yet been proven.

“Efficacy is something we have to answer with a clinical study,” Macaya said.

The CCSS had temporarily stopped using hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 in late May after a study published in The Lancet prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to do the same.

That study — which indicated that using the drug on hospitalized coronavirus patients could increase their chances of dying — has since come under independent criticism, and the WHO has resumed its own hydroxychloroquine study.

In Costa Rica, all patients — including those with minor symptoms or who are asymptomatic — are offered the option to take hydroxychloroquine upon their diagnosis, as long as they don’t have contraindications to the drug, Macaya said.

The country has provided the drug to coronavirus patients since conferencing with Chinese experts in April, according to Mario Ruíz, Medical Manager of the CCSS.

Costa Rica has a low case fatality rate (.75%), and fewer than 5% of known active coronavirus cases are currently hospitalized.

“We can’t say that’s a result of this medication, but we can’t discard it either,” Macaya said last month. The CCSS has not released data comparing the outcomes of patients treated with hydroxychloroquine to other methods.

On Monday, Macaya suggested that CCSS’s commitment to daily check-in calls for everyone infected with SARS-CoV-2 has helped keep deaths low.

The daily conversations and ongoing symptom tracking ensure that patients are hospitalized at the appropriate time, Macaya said. 

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