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HCQ doesn’t protect health workers from COVID: study

Nov. 5, 2020, 9:19 AM


by Bill Snyder

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) did not significantly reduce the incidence of COVID-19 among health care workers who participated in a national study that included Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Originally developed to treat malaria, HCQ currently is prescribed as an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus).

In laboratory studies HCQ can inhibit replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Some observational studies in patients have suggested that the drug may have a beneficial effect, while other studies have reported mixed results.

In this randomized, controlled clinical trial led by researchers at the University of Minnesota, 1,483 health care workers at high risk of being infected by SARS-CoV-2 were given 400 milligrams of HCQ once or twice a week, or inactive placebo, for 12 weeks.

Ninety-seven study participants developed COVID-19 — 29 in each of the HCQ groups and 39 in the placebo group. The reduced incidence of COVID-19 in the HCQ groups was not statistically significant, the researchers reported last month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“Our results suggest that prophylaxis (preventive therapy) with hydroxychloroquine … is ineffective, and recommendations for prophylactic use … should be reconsidered,” they concluded.

VUMC also is participating in the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes (HERO) research program, which is establishing a national registry of health care workers to study how they are impacted by COVID-19.

Funded by the nonprofit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute in Washington, D.C., the HERO initiative is led by the Duke Clinical Research Institute.

The registry is recruiting thousands of health care workers throughout the country including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and paramedics, many of whom work on the front lines of the pandemic and are at high risk for infection.

They are being recruited at about 40 sites including VUMC and Williamson Medical Center in Franklin. A subset is participating in an HCQ protection study. Results are expected in two to three months.

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