Story at a glance

  • A global trial studying hydroxychloroquine's effects on preventing COVID-19 infections is again underway.
  • President Trump popularized the drug when he announced he was taking it in March.

Hydroxychloroquine, the controversial anti-malarial drug once thought to prevent COVID-19 infections and help patients recover, is going to be subject to a new study after being approved by British regulators. 

Reuters reports that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will resume its global trial of both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, both anti-malarials, in a study known as COPCOV

The study was previously paused as results were pending review, but the MHRA announced Friday the study can resume. The COPCOV is described as a double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with a sample of 40,000 health care workers to determine if hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine can prevent a coronavirus infection. 

It is led by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok, Thailand.

Hydroxychloroquine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency treatment in severely ill coronavirus patients, although it carried warnings of cardiovascular problems and other health issues. 

Following a widely publicized and disputed study conducted by British medical journal The Lancet, the FDA revoked its emergency use designation for the drug in mid June, after European countries like France, Italy and Belgium outright banned or warned against using the drug as treatment, citing adverse side effects with unproven benefits.

In a statement, Oxford University professor Nicholas White, a leader in the COPCOV trial, said that studies of both drugs as preventative treatments are not conclusive. 

“Hydroxychloroquine could still prevent infections, and this needs to be determined in a randomised controlled trial,” he said. “The question whether [it] can prevent COVID-19 or not remains as pertinent as ever.”

Published on Jun 30, 2020