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Hydroxychloroquine does not work as a preventative against COVID-19, new study finds

Published on 04/06/20 at 10:38am
License to use Creative Commons Zero/Photo from PeakPix

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine does not protect people from COVID-19, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Minnesota.

The trial recruited people who were at moderate to high risk of contracting COVID-19 across the US and Canada, enrolling 821 mostly young and healthy adults. The average age was 40 and all had no symptoms when they were first put on the trial.

They were deemed high risk due to being in close proximity with somebody with the virus for more than 10 minutes without wearing any personal protective equipment. Within four days of exposure, each participant received either hydroxychloroquine or a placebo. The pills were to be taken over five days with the strongest dose being taken on day one.

Overall, 107 out of 821 developed the virus based on observed symptoms and 49 of these participants had taken hydroxychloroquine, compared to 58 in the group who received the placebo. The difference was not considered to be significant and the two patients who were treated in hospital did not have life threatening conditions.

People given hydroxychloroquine were also more likely to report side effects with 40% reporting disturbances like nausea and stomach pain compared to only 17% of patients who received a placebo.

Dr Todd Lee, an associate professor of medicine, division of infectious diseases at McGill University in Canada and one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Our study demonstrates that hydroxychloroquine is no better than placebo when used as post-exposure prophylaxis within four days of exposure to someone infected with the new coronavirus.”

Dr Ryan Zarychanski, another author of the study, said: “Our study’s results set politics aside and provide unbiased evidence to guide practice in the prevention of Covid-19 and reinforce the importance of randomised clinical trials as we work together nationally and internationally to combat the novel coronavirus.”

Despite controversy around the potential dangers of taking the drug, the WHO is resuming clinical trials testing hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness in COVID-19 patients.

Conor Kavanagh

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