Expert warns about Palmer’s COVID-19 ‘best hope’

AN infectious disease expert has warned that Clive Palmer's plan to "cure" Australia of coronavirus may use a dangerous choice of treatment.

The Queensland mining billionaire published a full-page advertisement in the Cairns Post yesterday claiming his Palmer Foundation had purchased 32.9 million doses of hydroxychloroquine for Australians.

Mr Palmer said he believed the drug - which is traditionally used to treat malaria - was the "best hope" for those suffering COVID-19.

Businessman Clive Palmer said he will pay for more than one million doses of a malaria drug that could help fight coronavirus. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Businessman Clive Palmer said he will pay for more than one million doses of a malaria drug that could help fight coronavirus. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

"The tablets we have acquired have a shelf life of three years and the bulk materials longer," he said.

"A vaccine may take many years to develop and Australia has to be ready to provide the best treatment for its citizens should the worst occur.

"The small contribution that I have made will assist Australia in getting back on its feet sooner."

He said it was critical the drug remained available in hospitals for those who needed it to treat coronavirus, and was available to the Australian community when required.

But James Cook University infectious disease expert Professor Emma McBryde said at the moment, the current medical advice indicated it was dangerous to use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

"It won't protect you," she said. "It won't prevent COVID-19.

"At this stage, it's certainly not promising that it's a useful treatment, and it can certainly do harm."

She said stockpiling the drug could also prevent those who need it for treatment of malaria or lupus, unable to access the medication.

"People should not be having hydroxychloroquine unless they are in a setting of a randomised clinical trial,' she said.

She suggested anyone concerned about COVID-19 treatment should consult with their local GP or health authorities.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration, in a statement, has said that hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine pose well-known serious risks to patients including cardiac toxicity - potentially leading to sudden heart attacks, irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar, potentially leading to coma.

Originally published as Expert warns about Palmer's COVID-19 'best hope'