Hydroxychloroquine, a drug for the treatment of malaria that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has promoted as an antidote to the coronavirus, does not protect against COVID-19, according to a study carried out with 821 participants and published this Wednesday.
The study was conducted entirely online and the results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Radha Rajasingham, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, explained that to qualify the participants, they must have had contact with a patient affected by the coronavirus a few days before, but they should not have symptoms of the disease.
“Contacts” were defined as having been within two meters of a sick person for more than 10 minutes, without the patient or visitor wearing a face mask or face shield.
The volunteers were given a dose of hydroxychloroquine for five days or a placebo.
After repeatedly referring to hydroxychloroquine as a possible remedy for COVID-19, two weeks ago Trump surprised reporters when he claimed that he was taking the drug himself.
Health authorities in the United States have said that the drug should be used only in hospitalized patients or in clinical trials, due to possible negative side effects.
According to the study, 107 of the participants developed the disease, 49 of them in the group that received the medication and 58 in the group that received a placebo. This represents a 2.4% reduction in the risk of developing the coronavirus, which is not statistically significant.
“It is also not clinically significant,” said Rajasingham.
On May 22, the British medical journal Lancet published a study supported by data from hundreds of hospitals and involving 90,000 patients hospitalized for coronavirus infection on six continents.
This report found that those who received hydroxychloroquine, or a related compound called chlorichine, had a significantly higher risk of death than those who did not receive the treatment.
Soon after, the World Health Organization (WHO) suspended the use of hydroxychloroquine in an extensive international trial of treatments for the disease, and France banned its use as therapy in cases of COVID-19.
The controversy continues as other scientists in recent days questioned the study data and the Lancet journal expressed concern about the report, indicating that the scientists will carry out an independent review of the data obtained by a company.
The study published by the New England medical journal showed that 40% of the participants who received hydroxychloroquine had side effects that were not serious, such as nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea, but without serious cardiac consequences.