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Washington University launches clinical trial on controversial drug to treat coronavirus

Annika Merrilees, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Science & Technology News

ST. LOUIS -- Washington University School of Medicine announced Thursday that it is launching a clinical trial to investigate the controversial drug chloroquine, among others, to treat the new coronavirus.

The trial will look at different combinations of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have been used to treat malaria and some inflammatory conditions, but have not been proven as treatment for COVID-19.

President Donald Trump recommended hydroxychloroquine to treat the new coronavirus, causing an uproar last month among health officials across the world, who warned that drugs were unproven in this application. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned that the evidence in favor of the drugs has been anecdotal so far.

The goal of the Washington University trial is to determine if any of the medications decrease the severity or duration of respiratory symptoms associated with the new coronavirus.

"There have been only a few small studies that have evaluated chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in patients with COVID-19 infection, and the results are unclear," infectious disease specialist Rachel M. Presti said in a statement. Presti is an associate professor of medicine, and is co-leading the trial.

Patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital will be enrolled.

There will be four groups of patients in the trial. One will receive chloroquine, a second will receive hydroxychloroquine, a third will receive chloroquine and azithromycin, and the fourth will receive hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

 

Azithromycin is an antibiotic used to treat infections caused by bacteria, including respiratory, skin, ear and eye infections.

Express Scripts has donated the medications to the school.

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