A worldwide study of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment against COVID-19 is beginning, Reuters reported. The drug has been touted by President Donald Trump, who claims he has been taking the drug prophylactically.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the scientific and medical communities have been looking at all possible options to battle the disease and the pathogen that causes it, SARS-CoV-2, colloquially referred to as the "novel coronavirus." One possible option has been the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.
Trump has previously described the drug as a "game-changer," despite limited evidence of its efficacy. Evidence that hydroxychloroquine works against COVID-19 has been limited and largely anecdotal. Previously, there has been no large-scale, comprehensive tests done under controlled laboratory conditions that have been able to properly determine the drug's effectiveness against COVID-19.
University of Oxford Professor Nicholas White is leading a team that hopes to solve that problem once and for all. White's team plans to distribute the drug to one group of patients, and a placebo to another group of patients. All told, about 40,000 test subjects across Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America will be part of the trial.
The test subjects will primarily be health care workers, the group that is most likely to be exposed to the virus due to their work.
The trial has already started: as of this writing, the first batch of healthcare workers to receive either the drug or the placebo have gotten their first doses. Those first tests of workers are being held in Britain and Thailand.
White says that the COPCOV trial, as it's being called, aims to determine once and for all whether or not hydroxychloroquine is a suitable tool in the fight against the coronavirus. White hopes that if successful, it can be added to the existing list of therapies that are useful against COVID-19 and the pathogen that causes it.
"We still do not know whether anything is beneficial in COVID-19. The only way we can find out if things are beneficial overall is to do large, well-conducted clinical trials."
Researcher Nick Cammack echoes that sentiment in a release from Tropical Health Network.
"Hard scientific evidence from large-scale clinical trials is essential. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have shown positive results in small-scale studies and anecdotally, but there are still many unknowns. These trials will give us the best understanding of how safe and effective these drugs might be across different populations and age groups."