U of M clinical trial: Hydroxychloroquine not effective at preventing COVID-19 infection after exposure

This Monday, April 6, 2020 file photo shows an arrangement of hydroxychloroquine pills in Las Vegas. Photo: John Locher/Associated Press. This Monday, April 6, 2020 file photo shows an arrangement of hydroxychloroquine pills in Las Vegas.

Kyle Brown
Updated: June 03, 2020 02:15 PM
Created: June 03, 2020 10:14 AM

University of Minnesota researchers have published the first randomized clinical trial testing hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness at preventing COVID-19 after exposure to the coronavirus.

According to a news release, the trial results determined that hydroxychloroquine was not able to prevent the onset of COVID-19 any more effectively than a placebo. The trial also found that two-fifths of participants developed non-serious side effects, such as nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. No serious side effects or heart complications were recorded.


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Researchers launched the trial on March 17 with 821 participants from across the U.S. and Canada. Everyone enrolled in the study had been exposed to COVID-19 either from someone living in their household or in the line of duty as a health care worker or first responder.

Half of the people involved in the study received hydroxychloroquine and the other half received five days of a placebo. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew who received the medication and who received the placebo.

Overall, about 12% of participants who took hydroxychloroquine were infected with COVID-19, as compared with 14% of subjects who took the placebo. That was not a statistical difference, the release stated.

“Our objective was to answer the question of whether hydroxychloroquine worked to prevent disease or did not work,” said Dr. David Boulware, the U of M infectious disease physician who led the trial. “While we are disappointed that this did not prevent COVID-19, we are pleased that we were able to provide a conclusive answer. Our objective was to find an answer.” 

Hydroxychloroquine is primarily used as a drug to combat malaria. President Donald Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as a method to keep COVID-19 at bay, even claiming he had been taking the drug.

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