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University of Minnesota clinical trial finds anti-malaria drug an ineffective COVID-19 prevention

President Donald Trump claimed to take the drug daily.

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A bottle of hydroxychloroquine tablets. (Submitted/Sanford Health)

A new clinic trial from the University of Minnesota found the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine doesn't prevent COVID-19.

In the first randomized clinical trial test of the drug, researchers from the university's medical school found the drug doesn't prevent the disease from developing any better than a placebo does in healthy adults.

President Donald Trump claimed to take the drug daily for its COVID-19 prevention benefits. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against using hydroxychloroquine outside of hospital settings or clinical settings, due to the possibility of it causing abnormal heart rhythms and a dangerous rapid heart rate.

U of M researchers found that 40% of hydroxychloroquine users in the study developed non-serious side effects, like nausea, an upset stomach or diarrhea. There were no serious side effects or cardiac problems resulting from the drug's use.

Dr. David Boulware started the trial in hopes of finding an inexpensive, widely available medication that prevents or treats the disease early before people need hospital care, according to a news release.


“Our objective was to answer the question of whether hydroxychloroquine worked to prevent disease or did not work,” Boulware, senior trial investigator and infectious-disease physician at the U of M, wrote in the release. “While we are disappointed that this did not prevent COVID-19, we are pleased that we were able to provide a conclusive answer. Our objective was to find an answer.”

There are no approved treatments for COVID-19, but several drugs and treatments are being investigated .

The Mayo Clinic is investigating the effects of convalescent plasma treatment . Plasma from donors has antibodies that may help fight off the virus quicker, as these antibodies are what likely primarily helped the donor recover from the virus. People receive these antibodies via plasma transfusion .

The hydroxychloroquine trial included 821 asymptomatic adults from the U.S. and Canada who were exposed to the virus from someone in their household or as a health care worker or first responder. The study began March 17.

Half of the participants received hydroxychloroquine for five days, while the other half received a placebo during that same time. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew what the participants received.

Researchers then followed the participants for two weeks to monitor the development of COVID-19 symptoms.

Around 12% of the participants that received hydroxychloroquine developed COVID-19, while around 14% of those given a placebo developed the virus.

"This was not a statistical difference, and even if there was a statistical difference, this would equate to treating 42 persons with hydroxychloroquine in order to prevent one infection," the news release about the study read.


The results were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine .

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