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U of M study finds hydroxychloroquine shows no benefit in treating COVID-19

It was the first randomized clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine to treat non-hospitalized adults with COVID-19.

An anti-malaria drug that has been touted by President Donald Trump does not decrease the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, a new University of Minnesota study found. 

It was the first randomized clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine to treat non-hospitalized adults with COVID-19, and found the drug didn't decrease the severity of symptoms over 14 days any better than a placebo, a news release from the U of M said.

The results from U of M Medical School researchers were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Thursday. A previous U of M study found hydroxychloroquine has no benefit in preventing COVID-19.

The hope was the trial would offer an inexpensive, widely availably medication that could treat COVID-19 early on to help people avoid being hospitalized.

“This second randomized trial was conducted as a companion to our recently published hydroxychloroquine trial in the New England Journal of Medicine,” Caleb Skipper, MD, lead author on the paper and infectious diseases fellow, said in the release. “Taken together, there is no convincing evidence that hydroxychloroquine can either prevent COVID-19 after exposure or reduce illness severity after developing early symptoms.

"While disappointing, these results are consistent with an emerging body of literature that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t convey a substantial clinical benefit in people diagnosed with COVID-19 — despite its activity against the virus in a test tube," Skipper added. 

The double-blind trial, which launched March 22, involved 491 non-hospitalized adults from 40 states and three Canadian provinces, with participants being given either five days of hydroxychloroquine or five days of a placebo in the first few days of their symptoms.

The people in the trial were monitored for two weeks to see how quickly symptoms receded, as well as who was hospitalized, became seriously ill or died. 

After 14 days, 24 percent of trial participants (49 of 201 people) receiving hydroxychloroquine still had symptoms, while 30 percent (59 of 194 people) taking the placebo had symptoms. 

Of people taking hydroxychloroquine, four were hospitalized and one person died (they were not hospitalized). Of those taking the placebo, 10 people were hospitalized (two hospitalizations were not COVID-19-related) and one person died in the hospital. 

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