Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that the antimalarial drug chloroquine can treat the new coronavirus, any potential treatment for COVID-19 is only in the early stages of investigation, including one-time treatments with special case authorizations and small clinical examinations,media outlet TechCrunch reported. So far, there is no way to examine in detail exactly what they say are exactly what they can do to treat COVID-19 or the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease, but the first large-scale clinical study of a candidate treatment in the United States is being sought.
The study will be carried out by Henry Ford Health Systems, which is recruiting 3,000 volunteers from healthcare and first responder working environments. It is reported that the researchers hope to start the study as early as next week. Lead researcher Dr. William W. O’Neil said in a press release announcing the study that the goal is to find clearer scientific answers to the question of whether oxychloroquine can be used as a preventive drug to help protect the medical frontier.
Hydroxychloroquine (and chloroquine) has been the subject of intense concern as a potential COVID-19 treatment, largely because of Trump’s repeated references to the drug at a White House press conference on the New Coronavirus Task Force. Trump believes the drug, which can be used as both an antimalarial drug and used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, should be an effective treatment and should be used. On one occasion, he claimed that the FDA had approved it as an emergency approval for COVID-19 treatment, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), clarified that the drug had not been approved for that purpose and that clinical studies were still needed to assess how to address COVID-19.
As mentioned above, the scale of hydroxychloroquine research to date has been very small. Among them, carried out by French researchers, this suggests that the drug produces results in effective treatment of infected people, especially when paired with specific antibiotics. Another new study from China suggests that there is no difference in the duration or symptoms of the virus compared to the treatment of hydroxychloroquine, which is a common practice in addressing cases of the disease.
Henry Ford’s research seems to provide a better answer to some of the questions surrounding the drug, although seeking specific approaches to testing preventive use will mean that treatment-oriented applications must still be studied separately. The study will be designed to be a true double-blind study, with participants divided into three groups to receive “unknown specific drugs” (possibly antiviral or equivalent); hydroxychloroquine or placebo drugs. They don’t know what drugs were received, and the researchers will contact them weekly and then face-to-face at weeks 4 and 8 to determine if they have COVID-19 symptoms or any aspect of the drug. They will be pumped regularly.
These volunteers will be front-line medical staff, so in theory they should be susceptible to the disease. Together with a large sample size, a clearer answer should be provided on the potential preventive effects of hydroxychloroquine. Even after the study is completed, other competitive large-scale trials would ideally be conducted to prove or doubt these results.