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Researchers behind a global study to determine whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent Covid-19 have warned the drug was being thrown away prematurely and could still save lives.

The study conducted by the University of Oxford, known as Copcov, is a randomized, placebo-controlled, global study to recruit 40,000 healthcare workers to determine whether hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can prevent Covid- 19.

Hydroxychloroquine has been consistently dismissed as an acceptable treatment for coronavirus, with several scientific studies suggesting that the antimalarial drug may do more harm than good.

However, the researchers behind Copcov pointed out that while the drug has been ruled out as a method of treating infections, it may still be able to prevent them.

The trial’s co-principal investigator, Dr Will Schilling, said: “We really don’t know whether or not hydroxychloroquine works in prevention or very early treatment. This question remains unanswered.

“The benefits found in small trials of post-exposure treatment, while modest, could be very valuable if confirmed.”

Professor Nick Day, director of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, who is also leading the study, said the Copcov trial would be able to find a definitive answer to the drug’s effectiveness.

He said: “By the time patients are admitted to the hospital, the virus multiplication has passed its peak and the inflammation of the lungs and other complications can prove to be fatal.

“At this point, the steroid dexamethasone, which reduces inflammation, saves lives, but not the antivirals hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.

“However, that does not exclude that they could be effective much earlier in the disease. Prevention is much easier than cure. The Copcov study will find out whether or not these drugs can prevent Covid-19. “


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