A study led by the University of Oxford to test whether hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine can prevent Covid-19 among healthcare workers initiated enrolment of participants at the Aga Khan University on Wednesday.
According to a statement issued by the local varsity, the study 'COPCOV' is a double-blind, randomised placebo-controlled trial in which half the participants will be given hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine and the other half will be given a placebo. The selection for each will be at random, with neither the participants nor the administrators knowing who has received what.
Laboratory experiments have shown hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to kill the coronavirus, according to AKU. The drug has been used for over 60 years to treat malaria, amoebic liver abscess and other diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. While there is increasing evidence that the drug could work as a form of preventive medicine for the novel coronavirus, researchers are still not sure.
"I don't know if hydroxychloroquine can prevent Covid-19 or not. But I do know that we really need to find out, and quickly. We could be waiting a long time for an effective vaccine," says Prof Sir Nick White, one of COPCOV's co-principal investigators.
AKU is the only site outside of the United Kingdom as of yet which is participating in the study by University of Oxford and the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORO) in Bangkok, Thailand, funded by the UK-based research-charity, Wellcome Trust.
"If there is a chance that it can offer valuable protection against Covid-19, it is imperative that the study finds out if it does," said Prof Asim Beg, the COPCOV's principal investigator in Pakistan.
Five other sites for the study are in the UK. The COPCOV is the only non-vaccine Covid-19 prophylaxis study deemed urgent by the UK's NIHR Clinical Research Network.
AKU doctors Farah Qamar, Faisal Mehmood, Noshin Nasir, Momin Qazi, Sonia Qureshi and AKU Clinical Trials Unit director Saeed Hamid are supporting the study in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2020.