Researchers have shown that the famous anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was ineffective for COVID-19 patients with early and mild symptoms. In a randomized trial, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the research team from the University of Minnesota (US) found that HCQ did not substantially reduce symptom severity in COVID-19 patients.

Currently, there are no effective treatments for COVID-19. The majority of previous clinical studies investigating therapies for COVID-19 were small in size and examined hospitalized patients with moderate to severe disease.

No Change in the Severity of Symptoms

Tablets and Pills- Representational Picture
Representational Picture Piqsels

For this study, the research team hypothesized that starting hydroxychloroquine within the first few days of symptoms could alter the course of COVID-19 by reducing symptom severity, symptom duration, and preventing hospitalizations. They randomly assigned symptomatic, non-hospitalized adults with lab-confirmed or probable COVID-19 to either oral HCQ 800 mg once, followed by 600 mg in 6-8 hours, then 600mg daily for four more days, or masked placebo.

Of 423 patients with available end-point data, 82 percent had a lab-confirmed infection, and 56 percent were enrolled within one day of symptoms starting. The findings showed that change in symptom severity over 14 days did not differ between hydroxychloroquine and placebo groups.

At 14 days, 24 percent receiving hydroxychloroquine had ongoing symptoms compared with 30 percent receiving placebo. According to the researchers, side effects were mild but more common with hydroxychloroquine than with placebo.

Strong Evidence of Minimal Benefits

The researchers noted that the study was limited by severe US testing shortages. Only 58 percent of participants received SARS-COV-2 testing. These findings, taken together with other published randomized controlled trials, provide strong evidence that hydroxychloroquine offers no benefit in patients with mild illness.

"If the peer-reviewed findings confirm the preliminary reports of no benefit in sicker patients in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and recovery trials, the saga of hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19 will likely reach its sad end," the author wrote.

However, earlier this week, the White House urged the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reinstate its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), for COVID-19 treatment. Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has vacillated on HCQ use, stopping trials using it, then reinstating it and again dropping it.