A malaria drug President Donald Trump took to try to prevent COVID-19 proved ineffective for that in the first large, high-quality study to test it in people in close contact with someone with the disease.
Results published [June 4] by the New England Journal of Medicine show that hydroxychloroquine was no better than placebo pills at preventing illness from the coronavirus. The drug did not seem to cause serious harm, though — about 40% on it had side effects, mostly mild stomach problems.
“We were disappointed. We would have liked for this to work,” said the study leader, Dr. David Boulware, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota.
Boulware’s study involved 821 people in the United States and Canada living with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or at high risk of getting it because of their job — doctors, nurses, ambulance workers who had significant exposure to a sick patient while not wearing full protective gear.
“There’s basically no effect. It does not prevent infection,” he said of the drug. Even if it were to give some slim advantage, “we’d want a much larger effect” to justify its use and risk of side effects for preventing illness, he said.