Two drugs Trump touted as potential cures for COVID-19 have little to no effect on patients according to new studies by Chinese and French researchers. The studies published in the medical journal BMJ on Thursday examined the efficacy of chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HQ) to combat COVID-19.
The studies are part of a growing body of research on CQ and HQ, which are traditionally used as antimalarial drugs. The drugs rose to prominence in coronavirus conversations after some initial small trials and the US president indicated they may help fight COVID-19.
The Chinese study tested the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in an open-label, randomized, controlled trial involving 150 patients with persistent mild to moderate COVID-19 infections.
“Data from our trial does not provide evidence to support the use of hydroxychloroquine in this population [patients with persistent mild to moderate COVID-19], particularly considering the increased adverse events,” the Chinese team found.
They did, however, note one study limitation: “Our trial could not assess the antiviral efficacy of hydroxychloroquine at an earlier stage, such as within 48 hours of onset of the illness, the golden window for antiviral treatment in influenza.”
The French researchers ran an observational study, using data collected from routine care, to assess the effectiveness of HQ in patients admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and who required oxygen.
“Hydroxychloroquine has received worldwide attention as a potential treatment for COVID-19 because of positive results from small studies,” they noted. The researchers concluded that “the results of this study do not support its use in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 who require oxygen.”
Despite the negative results of these most recent studies, CQ and HQ trials are continuing around the world.
In the US, where Trump said the combination of HQ and antibiotic azithromycin could be a “game-changer,” a trial is currently underway, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Although there is anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may benefit people with COVID-19, we need solid data from a large randomized, controlled clinical trial to determine whether this experimental treatment is safe and can improve clinical outcomes,” Fauci said on May 14.