World Health Organization resumes hydroxychloroquine trial, Indian ICMR vindicated in continuing use

WHO takes a U-turn, resumes Hydroxychloroquine trials: Details here

Hydroxychloroquine - a drug traditionally used to treat arthritis and that has been touted by some, including U.S. President Donald J. Trump, as a COVID-19 drug - is not effective in preventing the disease in people exposed to the virus that causes it, according to a new Canadian study. After two weeks of treatment, the results showed that the anti-malarial drug was no better than the placebo in protecting a person from COVID-19.

During the study, several members of the trial received minor side effects, but no serious consequences were registered.

"We would have liked for this to work", said the study leader, Dr. David Boulware, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota. But while he said that the safety results are encouraging, he anxious that the study, because of size and other limitations, might not completely rule out such issues.

Hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug, chloroquine, have been the subject of much debate since Trump started promoting them in March. Hydroxychloroquine has always been used for malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, but no large studies have shown it or chloroquine to be safe or effective for much sicker patients with the coronavirus, and some studies have suggested the drugs may do harm. No serious side effects, such as heart complications, were reported.

Researchers tested 821 asymptomatic adults in the U.S., Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta who had been exposed to COVID-19, at home or in a healthcare setting. The participants were randomly assigned to receive hydroxychloroquine or a placebo within four days of their exposure. Schaffner, who was not involved in the trial, praised it as "rigorously done".

Approximately 12% of those given hydroxychloroquine developed Covid-19, compared to 14% who were given the vitamin folate as a placebo.

'There's basically no effect. The goal of the randomized trial was to see if hydroxychloroquine could prevent symptoms of infection, known as postexposure prophylaxis, compared with taking a sugar pill.


"We found there were no major side-effects except for nausea, vomiting, palpitation occasionally".

"The Executive Group will communicate with the principal investigators in the trial about resuming the hydroxychloroquine arm of the trial". Participants were recruited through social media and traditional media platforms. And not all took their medicines as directed.

The results "are more provocative than definitive", and the drug may yet have prevention benefits if tried sooner or in a different way, Dr. Myron Cohen of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote in a commentary in the journal.

He asked: Should other trials continue unchanged?

"This fits with everything else we've seen so far which suggests that it's not beneficial", said Dr. Peter Bach, director of a health policy center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY.

Its findings reinforced those of previous studies showing the drug does not provide benefit against COVID-19. He said he requested a US government grant to support the study, but was rebuffed.

That decision followed The Lancet issuing an "expression of concern" over the large-scale study of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine it published that led to the World Health Organization suspending clinical trials of the anti-viral drugs as a potential treatment. So far, the results from these studies are not very promising. That followed the publication of a Lancet study on May 22, involving more than 96,000 people, which found that the drug did not improve survival among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and that these patients were more likely to develop heart rhythm abnormalities, a known risk factor of the drug, than those not given the medication.

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