NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The National Institutes of Health has launched an official trial of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for the new coronavirus. Vanderbilt University Medical Center is leading the study.
The NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) said Thursday that the first patients had been enrolled at Vanderbilt to assess if hydroxychloroquine, a well-known drug used for malaria and rheumatologic conditions, is safe and effective in treating COVID-19.
The trial will assess if the drug helps COVID-19 patients recover faster without major complications.
“Laboratory studies have suggested that hydroxychloroquine may be a useful drug to treat COVID-19,” said ORCHID trial lead investigator Wesley H. Self, MD, MPH, an emergency physician at VUMC. “However, we have limited human data to understand if hydroxychloroquine helps patients recover from COVID-19. High-quality clinical trial data are urgently needed to understand the safety and effectiveness of this drug in COVID-19.”
The first patient was enrolled in the study on April 2. Health officials said the trial will include hundreds of patients in the coming weeks.
The intervention group is getting 400 mg of hydroxychloroquine twice daily for two doses, and then 200 mg twice daily for the subsequent eight doses. The control group is administered matched placebo twice daily for 5 days.
Self said the study could be completed within several months, depending on the number of cases at hospitals participating.
The trial is being conducted within the Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury (PETAL) Clinical Trials Network, which is a network of 50 medical centers in the U.S. that collaborate to run large research studies.
According to a release, hydroxychloroquine has been adopted into treatment guidelines at some hospitals in China and the U.S. because there are no proven medications to help prevent patients from getting worse.
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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.
What are the symptoms?
The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Or at least two of the following symptoms:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.
The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.