Hydroxychloroquine ineffective in preventing COVID-19: study
An anti-malaria drug taken by President Trump as a preventative measure against COVID-19 does not protect people from contracting the disease, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study looked at 821 people in the U.S. and Canada who had been exposed to the coronavirus and found that hydroxychloroquine did not prevent them from becoming sick.
“Our objective was to answer the question of whether hydroxychloroquine worked to prevent disease or did not work,” said David Boulware, who launched the trial at the University of Minnesota in March.
“While we are disappointed that this did not prevent COVID-19, we are pleased that we were able to provide a conclusive answer. Our objective was to find an answer.”
Some patients were given placebos and others were given hydroxychloroquine for five days and then followed for two weeks to see if they developed the disease.
About 12 percent of the patients given hydroxychloroquine and 14 percent of the patients given the placebo developed COVID-19.
The study was double-blind, meaning neither the patients or the researchers knew what patients were given.Most of the patients were health care workers who had been exposed to COVID-19 at work.
Forty percent of patients developed non-serious side effects, including nausea, upset stomach or diarrhea, but no serious side effects or cardiac complications were detected.
The use of hydroxychloroquine to treat and prevent COVID-19 has become controversial after being promoted by Trump.
He took the drug for two weeks last month after his personal valet was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I believe in it enough that I took a program because I had two people in the White House that tested positive,” he said. “I figured maybe it’s a good thing to take a program.”
A separate study that found the use of hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients is undergoing an independent audit after doctors raised questions about the validity of the data.
However, the Food and Drug Administration has warned against use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial or hospital setting, citing risk of heart problems.
The National Institutes of Health started a clinical trial earlier this month to evaluate whether hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin, an antibiotic, can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
Demand for hydroxychloroquine soared after Trump began promoting it, leading to shortages. The drug isn’t approved to treat COVID-19, but it is used to treat lupus, arthritis and malaria.
Updated at 5:12 pm.