Study: Hydroxychloroquine Isn't Effective Against COVID-19

On June 3, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a new study into hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness against COVID-19. The double-blind study, conducted at the University of Minnesota, began in March. When it started, hydroxychloroquine had newly become a household name thanks to claims that it could cure the virus. David Boulware and his team of researchers set out to end the uncertainty by reaching a definitive conclusion. They believe they have.

The Hydroxychloroquine Hype

Shortly after COVID-19 reached pandemic status in March, President Donald Trump used a live press conference to espouse hydroxychloroquine’s potentially life-saving powers. Shortly after suggesting that Americans “give it a try” against the virus, Trump tweeted that the malaria drug could prove to be “one of the greatest game changers in the history of medicine.”

These comments inspired weeks of controversy and commentary. Studies commenced across the globe, health experts rushed to encourage caution, and frantic consumers put additional strain on a struggling medical supply chain. The discussion around hydroxychloroquine came to a head on May 18th when the president announced that he had been taking the drug for over a week. This news came shortly after warnings from organizations including the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization (WHO) that it could cause serious, even deadly, side effects.


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A New Study

Previous hydroxychloroquine trials have reached conflicting conclusions. The initial enthusiasm for the drug began when the doctors behind a French study suggested that they have proven it effective. With just 36 participants, the small study immediately came under scrutiny, but it was still enough to make ‘hydroxychloroquine’ a new buzzword in the fight against COVID-19. A study published in mid-April cast more doubt on the drug’s viability. It found that hydroxychloroquine was no more likely than a placebo to cure COVID-19 patients in Virginia and South Carolina veteran’s hospitals. In fact, it found more deaths among the patients who had received the drug.

This new study focused on over 800 adults from the United States and Canada who had previously been exposed to COVID-19 without developing symptoms. Some patients received five days of hydroxychloroquine treatments, others received a placebo. Nearly the same number of people contracted the virus across groups. Boulware has commented, “While we are disappointed that this did not prevent COVID-19, we are pleased that we are able to provide a conclusive answer.” He concludes, “Our objective was to find an answer.” Many believe that they have. WHO announced the same day that they would resume their own clinical hydroxychloroquine trials.

More Promising Results

While these trials are disappointing, other recent studies have produced more promising results. New trials conducted in Chicago suggest that remdesivir — another antiviral drug — may have a positive effect against COVID-19.

A vaccine for COVID-19 is still a long way off. For the time being, all Senior Life Advisor readers are encouraged to stay healthy, safe, and informed.