Online searches for Hydroxychloroquine rose by over 12,000% amid Covid-19: Report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on April 16, 2020 Published on April 16, 2020

Online searches for terms related to “coronavirus cures” including the anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine has seen a massive surge over the last month owing to the Covid-19 pandemic according to a recent study by online content management platform SEMrush.

According to the study Google search for the term, Hydroxychloroquine rose by 12,245 per cent between February and March 2020. The searches for two drugs similar to Hydroxychloroquine, namely, Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate rose by 2,384 per cent and 1,577 per cent respectively between February and March 2020, the report said.

“The SEMrush study shows there was a surge in searches with the keyword ‘coronavirus symptoms’. From being searched 1.8M times in February 2020, the keywords went to being searched a whopping 14.2M in times in March 2020,” the report read.

"Our study gets at the heart of what's going on in Indian minds during the lockdown. Our survey shows that Indians are watching the news to learn about the latest developments. They certainly learned about Hydroxychloroquine from the news. Many are also turning to the internet to learn about Coronavirus,” Fernando Angulo, Head of Communications, SEMrush.

The increasing online popularity of the anti-malarial drug amid the coronavirus pandemic is not a new trend.

According to the latest report by blockchain analysis firm Elliptic, darknet trading platforms meant for contraband goods including narcotics and stolen credit cards now have listings from vendors selling anti-malarial drugs and other essentials to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Relying on researches claiming that antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine could be useful in treating Covid-19, public interest in the medicine has increased, especially after “repeated comments from US President Donald Trump about the drug’s potential according to the report.” Listings for chloroquine have spiked in darknet markets. The firm cited the example of one listing based on the claims made by the US President which offered a pack of 150 pills for $500.

Earlier this month, the centre allowed limited exports of HCQ to “badly affected countries.” The news had come after President Trump had threatened retaliatory action against India if it did not release supplies of HCQ to the US.

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Published on April 16, 2020
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