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KU To Help Test Malaria Drug Touted By President Trump As Possible COVID-19 Treatment

John Locher
Associated Press
Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug not yet officially approved to fight the coronavirus, has been championed by President Trump as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The University of Kansas Medical Center will take part in a nationwide clinical trial of a drug touted by President Trump as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The hospital said it will test the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in preventing COVID-19 infections in health care workers, according to a KU news release.

KU said it’s one of 60 participants in the clinical trial, which will be led by the Duke Clinical Research Institute.

The drug, which is used to treat malaria and is often prescribed for people with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, has been the subject of small, inconclusive trials in France and China.

Trump, however, has lauded the drug as a possible treatment, triggering a run on the drug.

“I feel good about it. That's all it is, just a feeling,” Trump said last month during a White House briefing about hydroxychloroquine.

In Missouri, a big jump in prescriptions for the drug prompted a joint statement three weeks ago by the Missouri Board of Pharmacy and the Missouri State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts that “this activity may lead to stockpiling of medication, inappropriate use and potential drug shortages for patients with a legitimate need.”

KU is hoping to recruit 500 health care workers, including doctors, nurses, therapists, first responders, food service workers and environmental services workers, for its clinical trial, according to the KU release.

The double-blind clinical trial, the gold standard for determining a drug’s safety and efficacy, is funded by the Patient-Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI), a government sponsored nonprofit that funds comparing the benefits of established medical treatments.

Dr. Mario Castro, vice chair for clinical and translational research and a pulmonologist at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, will serve as principal investigator of the KU clinical trial.

“At this point in the pandemic, hospitals are reporting that 20% of U.S. health care workers are becoming infected with COVID-19,” Castro said in a statement. “When that happens, one in five must go into quarantine and cannot take care of patients. This study is critical for safeguarding the personal health of these workers and for protecting the health care workforce at this critical time. Our hope is that this drug will decrease the risk of exposed workers developing an active COVID-19 infection.”

At least 5,400 nurses, doctors, and other health care workers in the United States have been infected by COVID-19 and dozens have died, according to a BuzzFeed News review of data reported by every state and Washington, D.C. The news outlet said the actual number is probably much higher because of inconsistent testing and tracking of the disease.

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Dan Margolies is editor in charge of health news at KCUR, the public radio station in Kansas City. Dan joined KCUR in April 2014. In a long and varied journalism career, he has worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star and Reuters. In a previous life, he was a lawyer. He has also worked as a media insurance underwriter and project development director for a video production firm.