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Clinical study on hydroxychloroquine conducted in S. Korea

All News 10:51 April 22, 2020

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korean researchers have conducted a clinical study on virus preventive treatment using hydroxychloroquine, a controversial drug that has been touted as a possible cure for the novel coronavirus.

However, they were not able to confirm the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine despite people who participated in the study testing negative for COVID-19 after the treatment.

Researchers from Samsung Medical Center in Seoul and Pusan National University Hospital in Busan said they have completed post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) using hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) on 184 patients and 21 care workers at a long-term care hospital (LTCH) in Busan where they were exposed to COVID-19 after massive infections were reported there.

PEP refers to any preventive medical treatment started after exposure to a pathogen. HCQ is an anti-malaria drug that recently gained worldwide attention after U.S. President Donald Trump said it could be a cure for COVID-19, although medical experts are divided over the use of the drug citing side effects.

In this file photo taken April 9, 2020, researchers at the Institute Pasteur Korea conduct chemical tests to develop a novel coronavirus treatment in Seongnam, south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

According to the study, which was published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, South Korean researchers conducted PEP using HCQ on people who were at risk of contracting COVID-19, although their baseline polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the novel coronavirus were negative

Researchers gave a dose of 400 milligrams of HCQ daily to them until the completion of a 14-day quarantine period. During the course of PEP, 32 people reported one or more symptoms, including diarrhea, skin rash and gastrointestinal problems, the study showed.

At the end of 14 days of quarantine, follow-up PCR tests on the study participants were all negative, indicating that those who received PEP did not develop COVID-19.

However, researchers said that this does not mean PEP is "effective for the prevention of COVID-19," as there was no adequate control group.

"Although there was no adequate control group, and it was conducted at a single center, this is the first study to use PEP with HCQ as an outbreak response against COVID-19 in a LTCH," they said. "Randomized clinical studies are needed to evaluate if PEP is an effective option for outbreak response against COVID-19 in LTCHs."

Some medical experts here criticized the study, saying it was too hasty a move to test HCQ on patients at high risk as the drug is not even used in the United States and Europe as a COVID-19 treatment yet.


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