High-profile coronavirus drug speculation fires up internet searches

Internet searches for purchasing hydroxychloroquine, a drug commonly used to treat malaria, jumped 1,389 percent after high-profile claims were made that it could fight COVID-19, a new study shows.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined internet searchers originating from the U.S. that included certain search terms, including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, from Feb. 1 to March 29.

The estimated number of searches for buying hydroxychloroquine increased over the study period: from 494 Feb. 1, to 871 March 16, when entrepreneur Elon Musk endorsed the drugs. The estimated searches jumped again, to 9,006 March 22, a few days after President Donald Trump endorsed the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.

The estimated internet searches dipped to 3,625 March 29, about a week after news reports on chloroquine-related poisonings were published.

After high-profile claims, searches for buying hydroxychloroquine increased by 1,389 percent.

"The first and largest spike in searches corresponded directly with Musk's tweet and Trump's first televised endorsements, respectively," researchers wrote.

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