NIH halts hydroxychloroquine trial, study showed no harm or benefit

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June 20 (UPI) -- The National Institutes of Health said Saturday it would halt its hydroxychloroquine trial after a study showed no harm or benefit from the malaria drug's use for COVID-19.

The "Outcomes Related to COVID-19" study, which the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the NIH, conducted, found that the drug provided no benefit compared to a placebo in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, a statement said.

A data and safety monitoring board recommended the NHLBI stop the study, prompting the halt.

The board "determined that while there was no harm, the study drug was very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalized patients with COVID-19," the NIH said in the statement.

President Donald Trump has touted the drug's potential use against COVID-19 and said he used the drug himself for two weeks last month. White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said earlier this month that Trump completed the two-week regimen "safely," after weighing risks and hypothetical benefit.

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, but it can damage multiple organ systems, including heart, lung and blood, according to the NIH statement. Recovery usually takes place within one to three weeks, but some people develop severe illness, which could lead to respiratory failure and death if it progresses further.

According to COVID-19 mortality data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, the overall United States mortality rate is 5 percent.

People, ages 65 years and older, and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

"In various studies, the drug had demonstrated antiviral activity, an ability to modify the activity of the immune system, and it has an established safety profile at appropriate doses, leading to the hypothesis that it may have also been useful in the treatment of COVID-19," the NIH statement said.

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