Coronavirus pandemic

Global trial to test anti-malaria drugs against virus to resume

LONDON • A global trial designed to test whether the anti-malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can prevent coronavirus infection will restart after being approved by British regulators.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency took its decision on what is known as the Copcov trial after hydroxychloroquine was found in another British trial to have no benefit as a treatment for patients already infected with Covid-19. The Copcov study was paused pending review after the treatment trial results.

The randomised, placebo-controlled trial aims to enrol 40,000 healthcare workers and other at-risk staff worldwide, and is being led by the Oxford University's Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok.

US President Donald Trump said in March that hydroxychloroquine could be a game changer, even after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised that its efficacy and safety were unproven. The FDA later revoked emergency use authorisation for the two drugs to treat Covid-19, after trials showed they had no benefit as treatments.

But Copcov trial co-lead Nick White said studies of the two drugs as a potential preventative medicine had not yet given a conclusive answer. "Hydroxychloroquine could still prevent infections, and this needs to be determined in a randomised controlled trial."

Professor White's team said recruitment of British health workers would resume this week, and there were plans for new sites in South-east Asia, Africa and South America. Results are expected by the end of the year.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2020, with the headline 'Global trial to test anti-malaria drugs against virus to resume'. Print Edition | Subscribe