NIH halts trial of hydroxychloroquine
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has halted its clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine, saying that while there are no ill side effects, the anti-malaria drug provides no benefit to COVID-19 patients.
“A data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) met late Friday and determined that while there was no harm, the study drug was very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalized patients with COVID-19,” the NIH said in a statement.
It added, “The data from this study indicate that this drug provided no additional benefit compared to placebo control for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.”
Hydroxychloroquine, which has long been used to combat malaria, was heralded by many, including President Trump, as a possible treatment for the coronavirus until a working vaccine becomes available.
The trial started in Nashville, Tenn., at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in April, the NIH noted. More than 470 people were part of the study at its end.
The NIH explained why hydroxychloroquine was first examined as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
“Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat malaria and rheumatoid conditions such as arthritis,” the NIH said. “In various studies, the drug had demonstrated antiviral activity, an ability to modify the activity of the immune system, and it has an established safety profile at appropriate doses, leading to the hypothesis that it may have also been useful in the treatment of COVID-19.”
The NIH said COVID-19 more often than not presents as “an acute respiratory infection,” which can lead to severe damage to the body’s other organs, including the blood.
Nearly 8.7 million people around the world have tested positive for the virus, with more than 2 million cases coming from the U.S. alone. In the U.S., nearly 120,000 people have died from the virus.
The race to create a viable vaccine is well underway, but health experts have warned that a vaccine might not be ready until next summer.
Many heralded hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment option for COVID-19, including Trump, before the NIH began its trial.