COVID-19 trial: Up to 10,000 UK health workers to get hydroxychloroquine to test effectiveness
The new study to determine hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness will test people in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. In the UK, the participants in the global trial were being enrolled at the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Up to 10,000 frontline health workers in the UK will be given anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to see if it can protect them against the novel coronavirus in a new trial.
US President Donald Trump sparked fury earlier this week when announced he was taking the drug, despite warnings it might be unsafe. He had earlier labelled the drug as a "game changer" in the battle against COVID-19.
According to British researchers, hydroxychloroquine's “best chance' of working is if it used in prevention, which is exactly how it is used against malaria.
The trial will involve healthcare workers who come into direct contact with COVID-19 patients. Results are expected by the end of the year.
The first UK participants in the global trial are being enrolled on Thursday at the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The trial will also enroll volunteers in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.
At sites in Asia, participants will be given chloroquine or a placebo.
Prof Nicholas White at the University of Oxford, one of the study's leaders, said: "We really do not know if chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are beneficial or harmful against COVID-19."
But, he said, a randomised controlled trial such as this one, where neither the participant nor the researchers know who has been given the drug or a placebo, was the best way to find out, the BBC reported.
"A widely available, safe and effective vaccine may be a long way off," said Prof Martin Llewelyn from Brighton and Sussex Medical School, who is also leading the study.
"If drugs as well-tolerated as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could reduce the chances of catching Covid-19, this would be incredibly valuable."
This development comes just days after Trump’s decision to take hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis was described as a “staggering, irresponsible act that could very well also amount to self-harm” and there are fears his actions risk running down supplies of the drug for people with other conditions who need it.
Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the school of medicine at the University of Leeds, said that those that follow Trump's example “might not only endanger themselves, but could also deprive patients with chronic autoimmune conditions of their much-needed medication”.
The price of hydroxychloroquine is said to have risen dramatically as the availability of the drug has reduced because of demand from those who believe it will prevent COVID-19, according to a Daily Mail report.
According to scientists, the drug has some “very serious” side-effects and there is no evidence that it prevents or treats the disease.