Hydroxychloroquine Clinical Trials

There is a lot of discussion of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) online, largely because disparate figures such as Elon Musk and President Donald Trump have viewed it as a potential treatment for Covid-19.

I can understand the appeal–the drug has been around for decades, is cheap, and can be administered orally. Imagine being able to cure Covid-19 with a simple bottle of pills!

But it’s important not to let hope override science. There have been a number of trials reported so far, but none were randomized, double-blind (e.g. patients and doctors don’t know whether they’re getting the drug or placebo) clinical trials.

Fortunately, anyone can go online and look up clinical trials in the US clinical trials registry.

I was only able to find three trials that might report data soon.

The most interesting is likely this University of Minnesota study:

It has 3,000 participants, is double-blind, and will test people whose symptoms are not yet bad enough to warrant hospitalization. The study completes on May 12, so hopefully we’ll hear some results soon after that.

Asan Medical Center in South Korea may also be reporting results in May:

This is a 150 patient study, focusing on confirmed Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms, comparing treatment with Lopinavir or hydroxychloroquine with placebo. It is randomized, but not double-blind. The completion date is just given as May.

Finally, Plan Nacional sobre el Sida in Spain is conducting a trial on preventing infection in healthcare personnel:

This is a 4,000 participant, randomized double-blind trial. It will last for 12 weeks, with a completion date of July 31, but the study says that interim analyses will be performed monthly, which may mean that we hear something sooner.

It is agonizing to know that we will have to wait another month for real clinical trial data, but knowing this fact is better than waiting with bated breath for believable information that simply won’t be available.

(Note: There may be trials going on in China as well, but I couldn’t figure out how to use the ChiCTR website…if you think you can do better, you can find it here.)

On a meta note, doing this research took me about an hour of time. I’m disappointed that the collective journalists of this country couldn’t be bothered. The only place I’ve found what appears to be informed discussion of these trials is here on Science Translational Medicine. The author, Derek Lowe (not the former MLB All-Star), has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, and spent his career in drug discovery.

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