LegoChem Pharmaceutical said that it has recently received a large number of inquiries from abroad regarding the export of Polanil (ingredient: hydroxychloroquine), a malaria treatment.
"After U.S. President Donald Trump recently called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which are antimalarial drugs, interests in our drug have also sharply risen," a company official said. "The spike in interest has led to a supply shortage."
The company is also receiving a lot of overseas export inquiries for the drug, the official added.
According to LegoChem, there are 21 malaria treatments approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, but only four of them have export approval from the ministry. The company has two of them.
Hydroxychloroquine is a chloroquine drug developed by Bayer, a German-based multinational pharmaceutical company, in 1934, as a preventive and therapeutic agent for malaria infection. While the drug was initially developed as a malaria treatment, it has since expanded its indication to treat rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.
The drug has recently drawn much attention from the global community because of its possible efficacy in treating COVID-19, which is without a definite treatment.
The Korean regulator approved, last Sunday, the Asan Medical Center's plan to conduct a clinical trial of the drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
This open-label, randomized, controlled trial will compare results between AbbVie's human immunodeficiency virus treatment Kaletra, Elyson Pharmaceutical's antimalarial treatment Oxiklorin, and non-administered patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms. The hospital expects to complete the clinical trial by the end of May this year.
While hospitals are already using the two drugs in the medical field, this is the first clinical trial in Korea to confirm the safety and effectiveness of both treatments.
Previously, local health authorities released a treatment guideline for COVID-19 and recommended hospitals to use either two Kaletra pills twice a day or 400mg of hydroxychloroquine as a first-line treatment on Feb. 13.