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UK begins hydroxychloroquine trial

Published on 21/05/20 at 12:44pm
Photo by Kuldeep Singh

A trial investigating the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19 has begun in the UK.

The first participants will be enrolled from today at the Brighton and Sussex University hospitals and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. They will be given either hydroxychloroquine or a placebo for three months. These are the first of 25 UK sites, with results expected to be collected by the end of the year.

The trial is open to anyone delivering direct care to COVID-19 patients as long as they have not already contracted the virus. The study is being led by the University of Oxford and supported by the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research unit in Bangkok.

Professor Martin Llewelyn at Brighton and Sussex medical school commented on the study: “Even though the lockdown has brought the rate of infection right down in the UK, healthcare workers will continue to be at risk of Covid-19, especially as measures are relaxed. A widely available, safe and effective vaccine may be a long way off. If drugs as well tolerated as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could reduce the chances of catching Covid-19 this would be incredibly valuable.”

Hydroxychloroquine is most often used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, with treatment usually requiring blood tests to check if the drug is causing damage to a patient’s kidneys and liver.

Other mild side effects include headaches, dizziness and stomach cramps and mores serious ones can occur like permanent eye damage leading to blindness, hearing loss, low blood sugar, permanent hair loss and changes in mood. It can also be fatal in children, pregnant women and people with heart problems.

It has gained infamy after President Donald Trump has continually touted it as a coronavirus treatment, without any concrete evidence. Trump has claimed that he is actually taking the drug to stop himself getting COVID-19.

Conor Kavanagh

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