Hydroxychloroquine: Anti-malaria drug called 'miracle' by Trump does not prevent Covid-19, study says

Danielle Zoellner

The anti-malaria drug hydroxychlorquine, which was previously boasted as a “miracle drug” by Donald Trump, did not prevent Covid-19, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Canada studied 821 people who were exposed to patients infected with the coronavirus.

This clinical trial was the first randomised study to look if hydroxychloroquine had preventive measures against the virus, according to the researchers. Instead, the study found the drug was no more effective than a placebo, a vitamin in this study, in preventing the virus.

“The take-home message for the general public is that if you’re exposed to someone with Covid-19, hydroxychloroquine is not an effective post-exposure, preventive therapy,” the lead author of the study, Dr David R Boulware, from the University of Minnesota, said.

The first trial was launched on 17 March to determine if hydroxychloroquine

“We’re looking at that group and the question of can we give hydroxychloroquine within the first four days post-exposure so we can prevent disease or decrease the severity of this disease,” Dr Boulware previously told The Independent at the start of the trial.

His team also launched a second trial on 23 March for Covid-19 positive patients or those who showed symptoms for the novel virus. Those results have yet to be released.

The latest study comes weeks after a large observational study was published in The Lancet medical journal that studied 96,000 hospitalised coronavirus patients at hundreds of hospitals across six continents.

It found patients who used hydroxycholorquine, or its variant chloroquine, had a significantly higher risk of death than those who did not take the drug. Following the news, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suspended its drug trials, which are now expected to resume shortly.

In recent days, though, scientists have called into question the validity of the observational study using data provided by US company Surgisphere.

The Lancet revealed it had published an “expression of concern” on Wednesday about the study and researchers were conducting an independent review of the data.

The preventive trial just released about hydroxchlorquine’s benefits found 40 per cent of participants developed low-risk side effects, such as nausea and diarrhoea.

None of the participants developed serious side effects such as cardiac abnormalities, which was a concern among health professionals.

In total, about 12 per cent of those who took the drug contracted Covid-19 and 14 per cent of those who took the placebo contracted the virus.

The president repeatedly pushed the drug, over the concerns of medical experts, at one point urging people: "Take it! What have you got to lose?"

Last month he said he had been taking it himself as a preventative measure against Covid-19. On Wednesday his annual medical report was released saying he had shown no side effects from the drug.

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