Boston Medical Center using malaria drug to treat coronavirus patients

BOSTON (WHDH) - Boston Medical Center is turning to a common malarial drug to treat coronavirus patients as positive COVID-19 cases continue to mount in Massachusetts.

RELATED: Nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital urge people to stay home if possible

Tamar F. Barlam, the hospital’s chief of infectious diseases, says healthcare workers are now using the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat patients who are infected with the virus.

“That drug is something that may have some beneficial effects,” Barlam told 7NEWS.

President Donald Trump on Friday called the drug a “gamechanger,” while BMC officials called it a “glimmer of hope” that could increase coronavirus survival rates.

“This is a first step I would say because it’s a drug we can get our hands on to an extent but not if people go out and try to fill it if they don’t need to,” Barlam said.

RELATED: Mass. health officials announce state’s first coronavirus-related death

Barlam added that hydroxychloroquine is being given to suspected coronavirus patients, in addition to those who have tested positive.

“It’s a fairly safe drug and it may improve outcome,” Barlam said. “We’re jumping on that and making sure our patients are given that.”

Barlam did point out that the drug is “by no means a cure-all.”

She says BMC staffers are now bracing for a surge in patients in the coming days.

“I certainly don’t think we’ve peaked. We have to stay working hard and stay vigilant,” Barlam said.

RELATED: Gov. Baker says he’s not implementing lockdown ‘just because somebody else did’

The FDA is currently working to fast track anti-viral coronavirus treatments.

As of right now, health officials say a coronavirus vaccine will not be available for at least 12 months.

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)