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Alberta medical schools to study effect of HCQ on coronavirus

Researchers at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta will lead a province-wide study to test the efficacy of the drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in treating COVID-19.

The use of the drug to treat coronavirus has come under some scrutiny and even criticism in recent weeks as questions over its success hadn’t yet been proven.

Calgary talk radio host Danielle Smith was heavily criticized for promoting an article that claimed HCQ was an effective cure for COVID-19.

Previously, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw had warned Albertans on as-yet-unproven treatments or cures for the coronavirus.

Now, with support from Alberta Health Services and the Government of Alberta, 1,600 Albertans will be recruited to participate in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial for the drug. It’s dubbed the Alberta Hope COVID-19 trial.  It’s receiving $286,000 in grant funding.

HCQ is used as an anti-malarial drug and also for disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.

“We will be targeting Albertans who have an underlying medical condition which has proven to contribute to the worsening of symptoms, and eventual hospitalization,” said Dr. Luanne Metz, MD, principal investigator on the study. She’s also acting facility medical director, Foothills Medical Centre, and professor at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).

Patients will participate in an at-home study

Patients participating in the study will be at home and able to swallow an oral medication and can begin the treatment within 96-hours of a positive coronavirus test.

“Clinical trials like this will give healthcare professionals more evidence to determine how best to care for patients,” said Dr. Kathryn Todd, PhD, AHS Vice President Provincial Clinical Excellence.

The study will determine if HCQ, if administered in the first couple days after a positive test, can prevent the infection from occurring and prevent the disease progression. AHS will get permission from patients prior to entering them into the study.

Half of the patients in the study will get an HCQ pill. The other half will get a placebo, a media release stated.

“As we’ve learned from other countries, hospital systems can become overwhelmed by those infected with the virus who need critical care,” said Alberta Health Minister, Tyler Shandro, in a prepared statement.

“Our goal is to reduce the risk of severe disease experienced by individuals and reduce the burden on the health-care system by helping people recover from the effects of the virus at home.”

To find out more about these studies and other research projects related to COVID-19 that you can participate in check out the Be the Cure website.