A hydroxychloroquine v/s placebo trial involving 821 people across the US and Canada showed hydroxychloroquine did not work significantly better than a placebo, even as the governments in these countries continued endorsing the treatment with this anti-malarial drug.
Hydroxychloroquine is an age-old drug approved for malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. This generic drug, which is mostly made by Indian generic drug manufactures at present, had even created a diplomatic stalemate between the US and India after President Trump announced that India will face consequences if it doesn’t supply the drug to treat COVID patients in the US.
For the trial in the US and Canada, the researchers enrolled hundreds of adults who had come into contact with someone who had a confirmed case of COVID-19 for more than 10 minutes at a distance of six feet (about two meters) or less. About 719 of them were deemed to have had “high-risk” exposure because they wore neither a face mask nor an eye shield at the time.
For the clinical experiment purpose, all participants were randomly assigned to receive either hydroxychloroquine dose or a placebo, within four days. The researchers then looked at how many patients went on to develop COVID-19 over the next two weeks, which was confirmed either by a laboratory test or by clinical signs. They found that 49 of the 414 given the medicine got the disease caused by the coronavirus, compared to 58 of the 407 on the placebo.
This translates to 11.83% of trial volunteers on the drug were infected, versus 14.25% on the placebo. The absolute difference of about 2.4 percentage points in favour of the medicine was not considered statistically significant given the sample size, meaning it could have occurred because of chance. In all the volunteers, the side effects of the drug were more common than with the placebo, which was 40.1% versus 16.8%, but no serious adverse reactions were reported.