Researchers Still Hopeful That Hydroxychloroquine Could Help Prevent Coronavirus Spread

Despite reports that hydroxychloroquine provides little to no effects against COVID-19, some researchers expressed confidence that the drug can still do something to fight the disease. They said that the drug may not work as a coronavirus treatment but it has the potential to support prevention of infection. 

There are more than 48 ongoing trials with hydroxychloroquine around the world. One of those studies previously claimed that the drug could increase the risk of death among COVID-19 patients. 

However, researchers of the study announced in the past week that they retracted the paper. The move comes after scientists and other health experts questioned the sources of their data because of lack of transparency. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) then encouraged the medical community to continue studies focused on the drug's use to fight the novel coronavirus. To date, 17 trials are testing whether hydroxychloroquine can help prevent coronavirus infections, NBC News reported.

Those studies analyzing the drug's preventative role involve researchers from Duke University Medical Center, ProHEALTH and UnitedHealth Group, NYU Langone Health in New York and Hackensack Meridian Health Corporation in New Jersey.

Hydroxychloroquine has been used for decades to help treat autoimmune disorders and prevent malaria. The drug received attention early in 2020 when it appeared helping improve the conditions of people who contracted the COVID-19. 

However, hydroxychloroquine is also known for some side effects, including muscle weakness and heart arrhythmia. This led some experts to question the use of the drug for coronavirus patients, who are already at risk of serious complications.

But to Michael Belmont, lead researcher of hydroxychloroquine trial and medical director at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, the drug could play a role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been using the drug on rheumatoid arthritis and lupus patients in the past 35 years. 

Belmont said that a low dosage of hydroxychloroquine could potentially reduce either the occurrence of symptomatic COVID-19 case or at least prevent serious symptoms that would require hospitalization, intensive care or intubation.

The ongoing trial of hydroxychloroquine for pre-exposure prophylaxis at NYU Langone Health is expected to issue results in September. 

Coronavirus COVID-19 Laboratory Test, Cure, Vaccine Andressa Parreiras, Biomedic, and Larissa Vuitika, biologist, work in a laboratory during the extraction of the virus genetic material on March 24, 2020 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The Ministry of Health convened The Technological Vaccine Center of the Federal University of Minas Gerais laboratory to conduct research on the coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to diagnose, test and develop a vaccine. According to the Ministry of Health, as of Tuesday, March 24, Brazil has 1.891 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and at least 34 recorded deceases. Pedro Vilela/Getty Images

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