Source: Argus Leader

South Dakota’s study of an antimalarial drug’s impact on the coronavirus can’t be compared to other studies halted, a Sanford Health leader said. 

Other hydroxychloroquine clinical trials have involved different patients and dosages than South Dakota’s study, said Allison Suttle, chief medical officer at Sanford Health.

Suttle said the study in South Dakota hasn’t been impacted by President Trump discussing hydroxychloroquine. 

“I think it raises awareness and it’s an opportunity to communicate even more,” Suttle said.

The hydroxychloroquine trial in South Dakota, called PEPCOH, is studying whether the drug prevents a person exposed to the coronavirus from becoming ill with it. The study began on May 14 and has “a handful” of people enrolled so far, Suttle said. Their aim is 1,000 people receiving hydroxychloroquine and 1,000 people receiving a placebo.

People in the study receive a similar dosage that’s taken to prevent malaria and they will be followed for 45 days to collect data on whether it prevented the person from developing coronavirus, she said. The dosage used in South Dakota’s trial has been used for decades, she said. The hydroxychloroquine used in South Dakota’s trial is coming from the national stockpile and isn’t taking it away from residents who take it for other reasons.

She said they are carefully choosing people for the clinical trial who don’t have heart conditions and they’re examining the person’s medications to ensure there won’t be drug interactions.

“We feel very confident that this will be a safe trial,” she said.

Clinical trials finding hydroxychloroquine is harmful have used patients who are very ill and hospitalized with the coronavirus while South Dakota’s trial is one of the studies on whether it prevents the coronavirus, she said.

The World Health Organization used hydroxychloroquine in “a very different situation” for its trial than South Dakota is using it, Suttle said. The WHO paused its study earlier this week after a different study was published had lower survivor rates for hospitalized patients given hydroxychloroquine. The WHO was studying the drug’s impact on hospitalized patients and South Dakota’s trial involves a small dose and people who have been exposed to the coronavirus, Suttle said.

Suttle noted that other studies finding it has negative impacts on the coronavirus aren’t “apples to apples” to South Dakota’s study because they weren’t well controlled, or were pulling data from a registry of coronavirus patients and weren’t a controlled study with a placebo.

It’s good to look for “red flags” in treatment at the beginning of a disease, “but there has never been any documentation or information from the CDC, the WHO that using this in a prophylactic, randomized trial is putting patients at risk.”

Allison Suttle, chief medical officer at Sanford Health.

A separate component to South Dakota’s hydroxychloroquine was announced in April to study its impact on coronavirus patients. At this point, Sanford doctors have shifted away from using hydroxychloroquine to treat patients hospitalized with the coronavirus because of the results of other studies, she said.

Related: ‘Going on offense’: South Dakota implements first statewide hydroxychloroquine trial in fight against coronavirus

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