Hydroxychloroquine Study: Don't Discredit Anti-Malarial Drug Yet, Researchers Warn

Researchers believed that hydroxychloroquine may be effective against coronavirus if given to the patients early in the treatment.

The efficacy of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus positive patients has been a topic of debate among healthcare experts. However, researchers from a new study have warned that it was too early to discredit the anti-malarial drug entirely while treating Covid-19.

The researchers of the study, led by Oxford University, believed that hydroxychloroquine may be effective against coronavirus if given to the patients early in the treatment. The team sought to enrol 40,000 healthcare workers from across the world to find out the efficacy of the drug.

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"We really don't know if hydroxychloroquine works or not in prevention or very early treatment. That question remains unanswered," Will Schilling, the study's lead investigator said. "The benefits found in small post-exposure treatment trials, although modest, could be very valuable if they were confirmed."

The researchers said the study may prove that hydroxychloroquine may be effective as a prophylactic medication, meaning it can be used as a preventive medication.

"By the time patients are admitted to hospital virus multiplication is well past its peak and inflammation in the lungs and other complications may prove lethal," Nick Day, one of the investigators of the study explained. "At this stage the steroid dexamethasone, which reduces inflammation, saves lives but the antivirals hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine do not."

Can't be ruled out

According to Day, this did not rule out that the drug could be effective if given during the early onset of the disease. "Prevention is much easier than cure...The Copcov study will find out if these drugs can prevent Covid-19 or not," he said.

Hydroxychloroquine, which is often prescribed for rheumatic diseases and malaria, has been widely discredited as the treatment of coronavirus. The U.S. President Donald Trump has been an ardent promoter of the drug, much to the contention of the American healthcare experts.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stopped the emergency use of hydroxychloroquine and warned against using it as a combination drug with Gilead's experimental remdesivir on Covid-19 patients.

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However, on Trump said on Monday that the drug became the center of debate and "politically toxic" only because "I supported it".

"If I had said 'do not use hydroxychloroquine under any circumstances,' they (health officials) would have come out and said it's a great thing," he said at a press briefing.

Other than Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro repeatedly claimed that hydroxychloroquine was effective in treating coronavirus. In July, he posed with a packet of the drug with a thumbs-up after he recovered from Covid-19.