A $50 million study is underway at Duke Clinical Research Institute to prevent COVID-19 in health care workers. It aims to evaluate hydroxychloroquine as a preventive drug for the novel coronavirus.
The antimalarial drug has been around for decades, but now finds itself in the spotlight. Many people, including President Trump, have been touting the promise of hydroxychloroquine in the fight against COVID-19, without much data to back that up.
But its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties are why it's of interest. This new study of HCQ will focus on health care workers. Duke researchers are building a registry of medical professionals to track workers' experiences with the coronavirus and address specific needs. It will also facilitate getting them into clinical trials.
“It's one of the few communities that are continuing to work closely together as essential workers,” says Dr. Adrian Hernandez, the vice dean for clinical research at the Duke University School of Medicine. “So we need to also help protect not only their individual health, but also to protect them from transmitting COVID-19 infections potentially.”
Hernandez says that if they learn that HCQ can help high-risk frontline workers, then there's the potential that it could be helpful for others. But he says that with any drug there are side effects, and rigorous testing and controlled clinical trials are required to weigh the benefits versus the risks.