HCQ Fails to Protect from COVID Says Study, Will ICMR Reconsider?

A randomised control trial of the much debated anti malaria drug finds that HCQ no better than placebo.

2 min read
A new randomised control trial says HCQ doesn't work as a prophylactic.

The first randomised control trial (a gold standard) on Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a prophylactic for those who have been exposed to COVID-19 shows that it doesn't work.

In India, HCQ has been approved as a prophylactic for healthcare workers and family members of COVID positive patients, those who are exposed to COVID-19 cases the most.

Anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine has had quite the run ever since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. While the drug has seen the maximum back and forth on its use as treatment option, in India it rose to prominence when Indian Council of Medial Research (ICMR) allowed its use as a prophylactic. So far, ICMR has justified their use based on case control trials.

US President Donald Trump has said he takes one dose of HCQ daily as a prophylactic.

The study published in The New England Journal of Medicine is a randomised controlled trial. It was done to study what happens to those given hydroxychloroquine within 4 days of exposure, versus those given a placebo.

The trial was carried out in the US and Canada and recruited people who were at moderate to high risk of contracting COVID-19. Those recruited had been closer than 2 meters from a COVID positive person and for more than 10 minutes, while not wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

821 healthy adults with an average age of 40, with no symptoms, were recruited. Four days after exposure they were given either a placebo or HCQ, to be taken over 5 days. The dosage was strongest on day one, with 800 mg on day one followed by 600 mg after 6 hours and 600 mg for the other 4 days.

60 percent of these were healthcare workers.

Here's the problem: Around 1 in 8 developed symptoms for COVID-19 over the 14-day period.

Among those on HCQ, 49 developed COVID symptoms, compared with 58 in the placebo group. The number is statistically indifferent. While two required hospitalisation, no one died of the disease.

No Major Side-effects Detected

While those on HCQ reported higher side-effects like nausea and stomach pain, nearly 40 percent versus 17 percent in placebo group, no heart related issues were reported. Arrythmia is a known side-effect of the drug.

Dr Todd Lee, lead author on the study, from division of infectious diseases at McGill in Canada, said,

“While we had hope this drug would work in this context, our study demonstrates that hydroxychloroquine is no better than placebo when used as post-exposure prophylaxis within four days of exposure to someone infected with the new coronavirus”

This is a first major study for prophylactic use, but a second larger study is underway that will specifically look at healthcare workers. That study will cover more than 40,000 healthcare workers in the UK.

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