A doctor holds packets of a Nivaquine, tablets containing chloroquine and Plaqueril, tablets containing hydroxychloroquine, drugs that have shown some signs of effectiveness against coronavirus. A doctor holds packets of a Nivaquine, tablets containing chloroquine and Plaqueril, tablets containing hydroxychloroquine, drugs that have shown some signs of effectiveness against coronavirus. A doctor holds packets of Nivaquine and Plaqueril, drugs that have shown some signs of effectiveness against coronavirus. (Photo: Gerard Julien / AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli company to donate 10 million tablets of potential coronavirus remedy to the U.S.

The drug, approved by the FDA for other uses, could arrive by the end of March.

Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals has announced it's donating 10 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine sulfate to U.S. hospitals within weeks. The drug, which is offered under brand names like Plaquenil and Quineprox, is commonly used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But some scientists believe it could also help patients with the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Six million tablets are expected to arrive by the end of the month, with another 4 million arriving in mid-April.

“We are committed to helping to supply as many tablets as possible ... at no cost,” said Teva's Brendan O’Grady. “Immediately upon learning of the potential benefit of hyroxychloroquine, Teva began to assess supply and to urgently acquire additional ingredients to make more product while arranging for all of what we had to be distributed immediately.”

Israel has been at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, becoming one of the first countries to enact travel restrictions and self-quarantine. The country is also home to the Migal Research Institute, which recently announced it's developed a coronavirus vaccine.

An Israeli firefighter sprays disinfectant in a Tel Aviv parking lot as they prepare to turn it into a drive through complex for Covid-19. An Israeli firefighter sprays disinfectant in a Tel Aviv parking lot as they prepare to turn it into a drive through complex for COVID-19 testing. (Photo: Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images)

Mylan, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant, also announced this week that it's ramping up production of the drug at its West Virginia manufacturing facility. "Mylan expects to be in a position to begin supplying product by mid-April, and with the active pharmaceutical ingredient that we currently have available, will be able to ramp up manufacturing to provide 50 million tablets to potentially treat a total of more than 1.5 million patients," the company said in a statement.

The drug has been around for decades and is already FDA approved for certain uses in treating viral infections. But the medical community is still unsure if it can help with the current pandemic, as it has not yet been widely tested. Chinese scientists have been researching it for the past month. On March 10, scientists from both Israel and Italy released a new scientific study to explore the drug's efficacy on COVID-19 patients.

At the end of their paper, the scientists – including Andrea Cortegiani of the University of Palermo and Sharon Einav from Hebrew University – issued a caveat: "But even off-label use of chloroquine may be accompanied by several concerns; the first is patient safety. Such use should be accompanied by close monitoring. An epidemic is hardly the ideal setting to do this. The ethical approach to off-label drug use also differs between countries, raising questions regarding equity. Finally, chloroquine remains a pivotal drug in the treatment of malaria in many places in the world. Off-label drug use can create major drug shortages."

Although the product is not currently approved for use in the treatment of COVID-19, it has been requested by the U.S. government to be made available for use immediately. Teva is also actively looking across its expansive range of products to determine if the company can help to provide any other products that may be relevant in addressing acute and substantial need during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Israeli company to donate 10 million tablets of potential coronavirus remedy to the U.S.
Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals donating 10 million tablets of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine sulfate to U.S. hospitals to treat coronavirus.