Source: The Guardian Photograph: Yuri Cortéz/AFP via Getty Images

Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug, is being bought in bulk by the UK in case it does turn out to be an effective Covid-19 treatment.

Ministers are seeking 16m tablets in packets of up to 100 as part of a £35m contract put out to tender on Friday.

The drug is being tested by government scientists, health officials said. They are securing additional supplies so it can be distributed among the population if required.

The contract, which was uploaded to a government website on 15 May, is an “open opportunity” for pharmaceutical suppliers to supply more than 33m tablets of various drugs between June and next January.

According to the contract, the government is asking for the drug to be supplied in either 220mg or 250mg form.

“In accordance with the terms of this invitation to offer the authority may accept offers for alternative strengths of tablets,” the contract says.

Studies are under way across the UK, Europe and the US to examine if the drug and a similar one, chloroquine, are effective against the coronavirus.

A source with knowledge of the contract said the drug was being bought in bulk so that if it proves to be effective as a treatment there is a ready supply. “All of the drugs being purchased can be used to treat other conditions too so they don’t really go to waste if they aren’t proved effective for Covid,” the source said.

Other drugs being bought as part of the £35m contract include 1.4m tablets of lopinavir-ritonavir, which is used to treat people who are HIV positive; dexamethasone as an oral solution; and 20m azithromycin capsules in packs of up to six.

Read the original article here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/19/uk-to-test-hydroxychloroqine-as-coronavirus-treatment

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