(Reuters) – The World Health Organization has suspended testing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients due to potential safety risks but other studies testing the medicine are continuing.
FILE PHOTO: A nurse shows a pill of hydroxychloroquine, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Nossa Senhora da Conceicao hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil, April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Diego Vara/File Photo
Demand for the decades-old hydroxychloroquine has surged as U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly promoted its use against the coronavirus, urging people to try it. Trump said last week he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative medicine despite a lack of scientific evidence.
Some less reliable types of studies already have been done on hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and the closely related chloroquine, including one published on Friday showing a higher risk of death and heart rhythm problems for coronavirus patients who received them compared with those who did not.
But doctors are waiting for the debate about the usefulness of these drugs for COVID-19 to be settled by gold-standard scientific trials, with some results possibly due in days. Other ongoing studies may also come out with interim trial data in the next few months.
Following is a list of some closely watched HCQ trials and their current status:
** University of Minnesota is leading two nationwide studies comparing hydroxychloroquine to placebo for preventing infection in 3,000 people exposed to the coronavirus and for alleviating symptoms if COVID-19 develops. Some results are expected this week.
** University of Washington is conducting a seven-center trial for treatment of COVID-19 in 630 high-risk adults not requiring hospitalization; participants will be given HCQ + placebo, HCQ + azithromycin, or just a placebo.
Estimated study completion date: October 2020.
** Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is conducting a trial that aims to determine whether HCQ is better than placebo for preventing COVID-19 in 1,000 frontline healthcare workers at hospitals and care homes in the UK.
Estimated study completion date: April 2021.
** A U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute trial involving 510 hospitalized COVID-19 patients is testing whether 15 days of hydroxychloroquine is more helpful than placebo.
Estimated study completion date: July 2021.
** A European study, code-named Discovery and conducted by French research institute Inserm, will treat 3,100 adult patients in 34 hospitals, providing usual care plus either hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, interferon beta-1a, a combination of lopinavir/ritonavir, or none of those drugs. (bit.ly/3gikLTU)
Estimated study completion date: March 2023.
Source: Reuters reporting, clinicaltrials.gov, government press releases
Reporting by Ankur Banerjee, Vishwadha Chander and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Nancy Lapid, Lewis Krauskopf and Matthew Lewis