Duke researchers conducting clinical trials on drug aimed at treating COVID-19 symptoms


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Duke University is taking the lead in a new clinical study that looks at the possibility that a drug that’s been around for years may prove useful in helping to treat the symptoms of COVID-19.

Although this clinical study will take place quicker than most, safeguards are involved for the participants.

Hydroxychloroquine is a substance that has been used to treat Lupus and Malaria for years.

Now it could have a new use.

“In the case of coronavirus, there are some studies that suggest it may have anti-viral activities that either prevent or treats the coronavirus causing COVID-19 infections,” said Dr. Adrian Hernandez.

Hernandez is leading the clinical study Hydroxychloroquine at Duke.

The study is registering 15,000 health care workers who then will be used as subjects in a clinical trial.

He says measurable results could be seen quickly.

“Normally clinical trials take years,” Hernandez said. “In a pandemic setting we don’t have that time—so we’ll do this in a rapid cycle fashion and report results over weeks or months—hopefully by the end of the summer.”

When you are using a drug for an untested purpose, there is concern about the safety of the participants, so researchers say the study will address that too.

“We have a special committee that normally oversees the safety data of a trial,” he said. “But, in this case they’ll review the data as it comes in or on a weekly basis.”

If the study finds this drug works to help treat symptoms of COVID-19, Dr. Hernandez believes there will be enough to both treat current users as well as others who’ll need it to fight the virus.

“I know there will be manufacturers out there, gearing up in case it’s needed,” Hernandez said. “For this specific trial, we have a dedicated research drug supply for supporting the trial.”

Remember, this clinical study first needs to prove the benefits of using the drug for COVID-19 outweigh the risks.

Researchers say Hydroxychloroquine is just one of the multiple potential therapeutics that need to be studied.

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