Coronavirus: Major concerns about study into malaria drug Donald Trump took

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The study, which listed Desai as one of the co-authors, claimed to have analyzed Surgisphere data collected from almost 15,000 patients with COVID-19, admitted to 1,200 hospitals around the world, who received hydroxychloroquine itself as well as in combination with antibiotics.

But other critics, like Francois Balloux of University College London, raised concerns over the way the study was conducted even though they are sceptical the drugs themselves would work as a treatment for COVID-19.

Those large studies had begun back in March as the World Health Organization kicked off its huge Solidarity trial, which now involves over 3500 patients.

Citing the limitations of the study, the researchers said the vast majority of the participants, including health care workers, were unable to access testing due to the lack of availability of diagnostic testing in the US. Some researchers say that safety concerns about the drug have been overblown, alarming the public and making it hard to recruit participants for the studies needed to determine whether the drug has any value for treatment or prevention.

The retraction is sure to add fuel to contentious arguments about the potential of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two old malaria drugs, in Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The renewed research push follows widespread criticism of the quality of data in a study published by The Lancet, an influential medical journal, which found high risks associated with the treatment.

"It would be great to have a preventive therapy", Boulware said.

The Guardian reached out to other hospitals who also contradicted the study's data.

"We saw no cogent reason to suspend recruitment for safety reasons", said Peter Sandercock, chairman of the Recovery Trial. Further, 40% of trial participants taking hydroxychloroquine developed non-serious side effects - predominantly nausea, upset stomach or diarrhea.

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Of the 107 people who developed COVID-19, 49 were in the hydroxychloroquine group and 56 were in the placebo group.

"The executive group will communicate with the principal investigators in the trial about resuming the hydroxychloroquine arm of the trial".

"We were a little bit disappointed that obviously it didn't work", said study lead David Boulware of the University of Minnesota.

The decision to resume came after problems were discovered with a leading medical journal's study on the drug that claimed the drug was ineffective against the coronavirus and increased the risk of death in patients.

Researchers said the difference could simply be random. Two hospitalizations were reported (one in each group).

A separate study by University of Minnesota scientists of the potential preventative effect of hydroxychloroquine against the new coronavirus found it did not protect patients who had been given it prior to being exposed to COVID-19. "Our objective was to find an answer", he said, commenting on the results.

The study results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. There was no benefit for people who also took zinc or vitamin C, the researchers said.

Scientists have raised serious questions about the database used for that study, and its authors have launched an independent audit.

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