The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is the best coronavirus drug currently available, according to an international poll of thousands of doctors.
Of 6,200 physicians surveyed from 30 countries, the majority (37 per cent) said it was the ‘most effective therapy’ for the virus.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that ‘there is no evidence’ that any medicine ‘can prevent or cure the disease’.
With a spiralling crisis and no cure in sight, doctors in Europe, the US and China have been given licence to prescribe the promising drug to COVID-19 patients.
The latest poll, conducted by Sermo – a ‘virtual lounge’ for doctors, found the tablets were most widely used for COVID-19 in Spain, where 72 per cent of physicians said they had prescribed them.
Fifty-three per cent of doctors in Italy said they had used the drugs to treat the killer virus, while in China it was 44 per cent.
Just 13 per cent of UK clinicians surveyed said they had prescribed chloroquine to coronavirus patients, presumably through private clinics.
The poll did not state which other drugs were voted most effective in treating COVID-19.
But it did note that the three most commonly prescribed treatments by doctors were analgesics (56 per cent), a type of painkiller, azithromycin (41 per cent), an antibiotic used for bacterial infections, and hydroxychloroquine (33 per cent).
Sermo chief executive Peter Kirk described the polling results as a ‘treasure trove of global insights for policymakers’.
He added: ‘Physicians should have more of a voice in how we deal with this pandemic and be able to quickly share information with one another and the world.’
Around the world, countries are expanding access to chloroquine, a synthetic form of quinine, which comes from cinchona trees and has been used for centuries to treat malaria.
They work against those conditions by dampening the body’s immune response when it overreacts and could be beneficial for coronavirus patients in the same way.
Early trials in China have shown they can reduce the severe effects of coronavirus, and doctors are even considering mass use of drugs as a ‘prophylactic’ to give to people who test positive for the virus but have yet to show symptoms.
Doctors across America can now prescribe CQ and HCQ as a last resort for critically ill COVID-19 sufferers.
Both forms of the drug are thought to be among 1,000 medicines being tested against coronavirus in a lab as part of a Queens University Belfast study.
Larger trials have been put in motion, including in the US, where one began in New York this week.
Italy is carrying out a trial on 2,000 people, while scientists are also awaiting the results from bigger trials in China.
A European trial called Discovery will study four experimental therapies, including chloroquine, using 3,200 patients who have been hospitalised from the killer virus in the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Sweden and Luxembourg.