I’m definitely NOT saying tonic water works to prevent coronavirus!
Here’s why I think it might do more than nothing.
There is good reason to believe that we finally have a weapon to fight the global pandemic-causing coronavirus.
A Twitter thread yesterday alerted me to the potential for an antimalarial drug called hydroxychloroquine (also known by the brand name, Plaquenil) to treat and prevent covid-19. The Twitter thread linked to a google document, not a true research article. So I was reluctant to get too excited as google documents are not subject to the usual scrutiny to verify that it’s not a complete work of fiction.
Later, on Dr. Drew Pinky’s TV show, someone sent Dr. Drew a message suggesting that this medication is already being used in some US hospitals. Wow. Okay so IF that’s true, and it appears to be, then this is huge. Yooj.
Good luck getting Plaquenil.
When I tried to order some for a patient who I think has coronavirus pneumonia, the pharmacist I called told me that not only is her store fresh out of Plaquenil, her usual supplier has none either. The supplier did not provide her with an availability date, but that’s not entirely unprecedented in times of scarcity.
It’s important to mention here that much of the original work on the use of this medication for treating coronavirus infection was done in China. This has lead some doctors to speculate that China’s sudden drop in new coronavirus cases is not due solely to their quarantine measures, but due also and maybe in larger part to the use of hydroxychloroquine. Thank you, China.
Actually, if it really is the case that China has been using this drug successfully without telling us, I won’t be surprised. We’ve not been on the best terms, lately and it might be naive to expect them to be fully transparent.
Tonic water contains quinine, which is chemically related to Plaquenil.
Tonic water was invented by a British physician to prevent malaria, and the British added gin to sweeten it.
Both quinine and Plaquenil are primarily used for the same thing, namely malaria. They have a long history of use for this purpose and were both very effective. (There’s now resistance to Plaquenil and its use has declined in recent decades). Both drugs are also used occasionally to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus. Both drugs belong to the quinolone family. Both drugs also have similar side effects.
In other words, quinine and Plaquenil are use for the same things, they’re chemically related, and have similar effects in our bodies. All of this suggests tome that if Plaquenil is truly useful against coronavirus, quinine might be useful, too.
While there is no research to support the idea that quinine has any effect against coronavirus at this time, if it really is true that Plaquenil works for coronavirus, then if I were a drug company wanting to help with this epidemic the next place I would be looking for additional effective medications would be in the same family. At the very least, if Plaquenil works then quinine deserves serious study.
Please know: This whole argument I’m making is seriously hypothetical.
First, we don’t really have good quality evidence yet about Plaquenil.
Second, quinine is a relative of Plaquenil and may not have the same effect.
Third, there’s a significant dose difference. The quinine dose in tonic water is much much lower than the quinine dose used to treat malaria, roughly ten times higher than what you’d get in a 1 liter bottle of tonic water: 500-1000 mg versus 83 mg.
So why am I writing this when we don’t have any solid evidence tonic water does anything at all for coronavirus?
Tonic water is cheap, safe and just might help you sleep.
Now, let’s consider the safety profile of tonic water.
There’s not much to say. It’s really safe. It’s available over the counter, kids can drink it as can elderly, and last I looked there’s no warning on the label. Although I wouldn’t advise pregnant women drink too much, since there may be some link to birth defects.
The one problem with drinking tonic water is that it’s also related to a heart medication called quinidine, and can interact with that as well as a number of other drugs.
It’s safe on your wallet, too.
You can buy a liter bottle of Canada Dry for about a buck.
And by the way, if you’re a diabetic with night time leg cramps it may also help you sleep better. Quinine has also been used for this purpose for years.
Oh, I should mention by way of full disclosure that I work for ABC Fine Wine and Spirits. They hired me so that their employees could see me at no cost, which is very progressive and they deserve credit so I’m very proud to say that our 130 or so Florida retail stores sell some kickin’ tonic water. Did they ask me to write this article? No. They don’t even know yet.
So while you’re self quarantined and trying to cut down on soda and sweets to keep your immune system healthy, why not order up a tonic? Make sure you get one with low or no added sugar. And it (almost) goes without saying that its best to not load up on gin!
“Could an old malaria drug help fight the new coronavirus?” https://www.asbmb.org/asbmb-today/science/020620/could-an-old-malaria-drug-help-fight-the-new-coron
Effects of chloroquine on viral infections: an old drug against today’s diseases: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1473309903008065
What quinine looks like: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Quinine#section=2D-Structure
What hydroxychloroquine looks like: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Hydroxychloroquine#section=2D-Structure