An anti-malaria drug President Donald Trump has touted and said he takes in hopes of preventing COVID-19 does not prevent the illness, a University of Minnesota Medical School study found.
The study, which began March 17, was the first randomized clinical trial testing the drug, called hydroxychloroquine, to see if it could prevent the COVID-19 infection in a healthy person after they were exposed to someone with the illness. The U of M published the results in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.
“Our objective was to answer the question of whether hydroxychloroquine worked to prevent disease or did not work,” David Boulware, the senior investigator of the trial and infectious disease physician at the University of Minnesota, said in a news release. “While we are disappointed that this did not prevent COVID-19, we are pleased that we were able to provide a conclusive answer. Our objective was to find an answer.”
According to the U of M, hydroxychloroquine wasn't able to prevent the development of COVID-19 any better than a placebo. Approximately 12 percent of people given hydroxychloroquine developed COVID-19 versus approximately 14 percent given the vitamin placebo (folate), which the U of M says is not a statistical difference.
The double-blind trial involved 821 non-hospitalized adults across the U.S. and Canada who were exposed to the virus from someone living in their home or as a healthcare worker or first responder. Half of the participants received five days of hydroxychloroquine and the other half took a placebo.
The U of M said 40 percent of the people in the trial taking hydroxychloroquine developed non-serious side effects (nausea, upset stomach or diarrhea), and the trial found no serious side effects of taking the drug.
The findings of "no serious side effects" in the U of M study tallies with questions now being raised over a previous trial published in The Lancet last month, which said taking hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 could result in a higher mortality rate.
On Thursday, The Lancet published a retraction after concerns were raised about the company carrying out the study. The WHO has now resumed its clinical trials into hydroxychloroquine.