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Hyped Malaria Pill Doesn’t Help Clear Coronavirus in Study

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 4/15/2020 Marthe Fourcade

A bottle of Prasco Laboratories Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate is arranged for a photograph in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. © Bloomberg A bottle of Prasco Laboratories Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate is arranged for a photograph in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Bloomberg) -- Hydroxychloroquine, the 65-year-old malaria drug that President Donald Trump has praised, appeared not to help patients get rid of the pathogen in a small study.

The pill didn’t help patients clear the virus better than standard care and was much more likely to cause side effects, according to a study of 150 hospitalized patients by doctors at 16 centers in China. The research, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, was released Tuesday.

The drug did help alleviate some clinical symptoms of Covid-19, however, and the patients who took it showed a greater drop in C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation.

“When testing new treatments, we are looking for signals that show that they might be effective before proceeding to larger studies,” said Allen Cheng, an infectious diseases physician and a professor of epidemiology at Melbourne’s Monash University. “This study doesn’t show any signal, so it is probably unlikely that it will be of clinical benefit.”

There were more side effects in the group of 75 people who took hydroxychloroquine, but they were mostly mild, the most common being diarrhea. The researchers, led by Wei Tang of Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai, wrote that the medicine’s anti-inflammatory effects probably helped alleviate patients’ symptoms.

More studies of hydroxychloroquine are underway after the medicine made headlines in recent weeks and was endorsed by Trump.

“The results of those studies will be of interest,” Cheng said.

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