Oxford University Ready to Test Anti-Malaria Drug Hydroxychloroquine on Coronavirus Patients

Medical staff shows on February 26, 2020 at the IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute in Marseille, a packet of Plaqueril, tablets containing hydroxychloroquine, drug that has shown signs of effectiveness against coronavirus. - The Mediterranee infection Institute in Marseille based in La Timone Hospital is at the forefront of the prevention …
GERARD JULIEN/AFP via Getty Images

A team of researchers at Oxford University in England are set to begin testing coronavirus patients with the anti-malarial drug touted by President Donald Trump as a possible solution to the widening pandemic.

Tests of hydroxychloroquine are set to begin on coronavirus patients in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals as early as this week, pending regulatory approval from the government. The Oxford University team has also begun testing the steroid dexamethasone and Lopinavir-Ritonavir, a drug used in fighting HIV.

“The figures on the epidemic are just frightening. If something works, by God we’ve got to know and we have to use it,” Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford, told The Times.

The trails of hydroxychloroquine were fast-tracked after the researchers saw data from overwhelmed Italian critical care units. The hope for the anti-malarial drug is that if it is effective in treating the Chinese virus, it will reduce the number of patients who need ventilator machines, which are in short supply in the UK.

“Knocking a few percentage points off the risk — on a pandemic of this scale, that would have massive implications. It would tell us where we should be focusing our efforts,” Professor Landray said.

The speed at which the results from the study will be made available is currently unknown and will depend in large part on the amount of COVID-19 patients enter into the study.

“When we tell the world the answer, we need to tell them the right answer — this is no time for guesswork. Will it be two months? Four months? I just don’t know. But these are drugs where we have supplies in warehouses now,” Landray said.

There have been promising studies out of South Korea and China, which have found the use of hydroxychloroquine effective at fighting coronavirus infections.  A study published in France has also found that the drug showed promise in fighting the virus, particularly when used in concert with the antibiotic azithromycin.

Last week, President Donald Trump ordered the Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical testing of hydroxychloroquine and the closely related drug chloroquine, which he said looks promising as a possible solution to the Chinese virus.

Some health experts have warned that the current info on the drugs is too limited to make a determination as to its effectiveness and safety when used to treat coronavirus patients.

“Any of evidence that we have is very anecdotal, and we can’t have doctors just prescribing it, because it may actually be very unsafe for these conditions,” Dr Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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