May 31, 2020 / 9:10 PM / 2 months ago

Fact check: Hydroxychloroquine is not the same as quinine and can't be made at home

A post being circulated on social media post incorrectly claims the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which is being used by some doctors in the treatment of COVID-19, is the same as quinine.

The drug hydroxychloroquine, pushed by U.S. President Donald Trump and others in recent months as a possible treatment to people infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is displayed by a pharmacist at the Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/George Frey

The post goes on to claim that the substance is “something that anyone can make at home” and goes on to give a recipe using fruit peelings.

It further adds that “tonic water has the exact same quinine” as hydroxychloroquine.

The claim that hydroxychloroquine is simply quinine is false. 

Hydroxychloroquine is a synthetic drug while quinine is a naturally occurring compound found in cinchona bark. 

“Hydroxychloroquine is a completely different chemical substance to quinine,” Alan Armstrong, Professor of Organic Synthesis at Imperial College London, told Reuters. 

“There is a small resemblance in chemical structure in that both contain a ring system known as a quinoline. 

“Historically, hydroxychloroquine was discovered during efforts to synthesise alternatives to quinine as anti-malarials.” 

Professor Armstrong also said he doubted that quinine could be produced by the recipe offered in the social media post.

Hydroxychloroquine, developed in the 1950s from chloroquine, an old anti-malarial drug, is registered in around 60 countries under trade names such as Plaquenil, Quensyl and Plaquinol. French company Sanofi, which produces Plaquenil, said quinine was not a component of their drug. 

“Hydroxychloroquine is a synthetically manufactured drug, developed based on the chemical structure of quinine. Quinine is not a component of our drug Plaquenil, the active ingredient is hydroxychloroquine,” a spokesman said. 

U.S. President Donald Trump and others have pushed hydroxychloroquine in recent months but the World Health Organization (WHO) said on May 25, 2020 it was pausing a large trial of the malaria drug due to safety concerns (here) . 

Suggestions, such as in the post, that quinine used in tonic water is the same as hydroxychloroquine prompted British tonic water manufacturer Fever Tree, to issue guidance on its website (here) .

“Whilst hydroxychloroquine and quinine are both used in anti-malarial drugs, the quinine we use is naturally derived from the bark of the Cinchona tree,” Fever Tree says. “There is no proven scientific evidence that quinine or hydroxychloroquine can protect against or treat COVID-19.” 

VERDICT 

False. Hydroxychloroquine is a synthetic drug developed in the 1950 from chloroquine. It is not the same as quinine, which is a naturally-occurring compound.

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