A clinical trial has begun to evaluate whether the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, given together with the antibiotic azithromycin, can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is sponsoring the trial, which is being conducted by the NIAID-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group.
The phase IIb trial will enroll approximately 2,000 adults at participating AIDS Clinical Trials Group sites across the United States. Study participants must have confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and be experiencing fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. The investigators anticipate that many of those enrolled will be 60 years of age or older or have a comorbidity associated with developing serious complications from COVID-19. Participants will be randomly assigned to receive short-term treatment with either hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin or matching placebos. The first participant enrolled on May 14, 2020, in San Diego.
“We urgently need a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19. Repurposing existing drugs is an attractive option because these medications have undergone extensive testing, allowing them to move quickly into clinical trials and accelerating their potential approval for COVID-19 treatment,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. “Although there is anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may benefit people with COVID-19, we need solid data from a large randomized, controlled clinical trial to determine whether this experimental treatment is safe and can improve clinical outcomes.”