In the fervent effort to uncover a treatment or cure for the novel coronavirus, new studies and clinical trials are offering hope.
According to recent research, a drug called hydroxychloroquine may be able to reduce or eliminate viral load in COVID-19 patients.
What Is Hydroxychloroquine?
Hydroxychloroquine was first approved for medical use in the U.S in 1955. Also known under the brand name Plaquenil, hydroxychloroquine has been widely used to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The World Health Organization includes hydroxychloroquine on its List of Essential Medicines, a complete collection of “the most efficacious, safe and cost-effective medicines for priority conditions.”
It makes sense for researchers to explore the possibility of repurposing an established drug like hydroxychloroquine to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Not only are existing drugs already approved by the FDA, their side effects are well-established and affordable generics are readily accessible.
What Clinical Trials Are In Progress?
Hydroxychloroquine has already demonstrated the ability to kill or reduce the coronavirus in laboratory petri dishes, so the next step is to perform a patient trial.
Researchers in Marseilles, France are currently performing the first patient trial of Plaquenil for COVID-19. The results have not yet been published, but initial findings are available to the public.
The University of Minnesota is also in the process of launching a clinical trial for up to 1,500 currently healthy people “who have had household contact with someone who has COVID-19, or healthcare workers who have been exposed within the past three days.”
What Does the Research Suggest?
The results reported from the clinical trial in Marseilles, France are encouraging. Of the 36 people studied by physician-scientist Didier Raoult and his team, 16 were infected controls and 20 were treated patients.
All 20 test patients received 600 mg daily of Plaquenil. By Day 3, half of the treated patients tested negative for the COVID-19 virus. By Day 6, a full 70% tested negative.
This clinical trial also used six patients to measure the effects of treating the coronavirus with a combination of Plaquenil and the antibiotic azithromycin. Of these six patients, five of them tested negative for COVID-19 on Day 3 and all six of them tested negative by Day 6.
These results were dramatically different than the infected control patients. Only 6.3% and 12.5% tested negative for COVID-19 on Day 3 and Day 6, respectively. In response to the findings of this clinical trial, the French Minister of Health approved new expanded treatment trials.
According to Roualt, “If clinical data confirm the biological results, the novel coronavirus-associated disease will become one of the simplest and cheapest to treat and prevent among infectious respiratory diseases.”
In the face of nationwide quarantines and economic decline, this is exactly the news that Americans want (and need!) to hear.