Healthcare staff will be taking part in a clinical trial at St Vincent ‘s Hospital Melbourne to examine whether controversial drug hydroxychloroquine will protect doctors and nurses when treating positive COVID-19 patients.
The experiment – nicknamed “COVID SHIELD” – will include half of the participant population receiving tablets of hydroxychloroquine, while the other half will receive tablets of placebo over four months.
Hydroxychloroquine is widely used in the treatment of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, which first caught attention after US President Donald Trump spoke about it being a COVID-19 drug.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has said that the medication poses “well-known”
risks for patients and should not be taken outside clinical trials.
“However, these medicines pose well-known serious risks to patients including cardiac toxicity (potentially leading to sudden heart attacks), irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar (potentially leading to coma),” the TGA said in a statement.
“Given the limited evidence for effect against COVID-19, as well as the risk of significant adverse effects, the TGA strongly discourages the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of its current indications at this time other than in a clinical trial setting or in a controlled environment in the treatment of severely ill patients in hospital.”
There are currently more than 700 active COVID cases in healthcare workers in Victoria.