Hydroxychloroquine is widely used to treat malaria, lupus, and arthritis.

Associated Press

Taking the malaria pills hydroxychloroquine failed to help newly infected coronavirus patients, trial results published Thursday found.

The study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota enrolled 491 people with mild cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The volunteers were randomized to receive either hydroxychloroquine or placebo.

The group receiving the experimental pills did not do better and suffered more side effects, according to results published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

It’s the latest in a long string of evidence against hydroxychloroquine’s use against this pandemic. 

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Once again, hydroxychloroquine has flunked as a potential coronavirus treatment. 

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found it didn’t help patients with newly diagnosed and mild cases of COVID-19. The generic medication, commonly taken to treat malaria, arthritis, and lupus, became an obsession of President Donald Trump, who has touted its ability to be a game-changer against the pandemic.

Read more: Drugmakers are racing to use existing medicines to fight the coronavirus. Here’s what you need to know about the 14 most promising medications being put to the test.

Even as other studies have showed the drug fail to help hospitalized patients, some hydroxychloroquine supporters have latched onto its prospects as treatment to given early on in the course of infection. The University of Minnesota study, published Thursday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests there’s no benefit when given earlier.

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The study enrolled 491 adults across the US and Canada. The volunteers enrolled within four days of developing symptoms, with a majority joining the trial within a day after observing symptoms. This group did not require hospitalization and had relatively mild cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

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After randomizing the group to receive either hydroxychloroquine or placebo, researchers tracked the participants to see if the malaria pills could decrease the severity of symptoms more than a placebo over the next two weeks.

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The results found no benefit to taking hydroxychloroquine instead of placebo. The researchers also noted there was no benefit among volunteers who also took zinc or vitamin C.

Forty-three percent of people taking hydroxychloroquine reported side effects compared to 22% of the placebo group. About one-quarter of the group on hydroxychloroquine still had symptoms after two weeks compared to 30% on placebo — a difference that was not statistically meaningful.

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It’s the second major finding to come from Dr. David Boulware, an infectious disease physician at the University of Minnesota. Last month, another one of his studies found hydroxychloroquine failed to prevent infections in people recently exposed to the virus.

“Taken together, there is no convincing evidence that hydroxychloroquine can either prevent COVID-19 after exposure or reduce illness severity after developing early symptoms,” Dr. Caleb Skipper, an infectious diseases fellow studying under Boulware, said in a statement.

Read more: The first high-quality study of malaria pill hydroxychloroquine just found it doesn’t help prevent coronavirus infections

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