A clinical study by the University of Minnesota Medical School in the US has revealed no benefit of hydroxychloroquine in the early treatment of mild Covid-19 compared to placebo.

This is said to be the first randomised trial to assess the drug as an early treatment for a mild form of the disease in patients who are not hospitalised.

Data showed that hydroxychloroquine did not reduce the severity of Covid-19 symptoms over 14 days compared to placebo. Results have been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal.

Initiated on 22 March, the placebo-controlled, double-blind trial evaluated the ability of the drug to mitigate Covid-19 symptom severity and prevent hospitalisation in a total of 491 across 40 US states and three Canadian provinces.

Participants were recruited in the first four days of symptoms, including 56% enrolled within one day of symptom onset.

During the study, 50% of the participants were given hydroxychloroquine for five days, while the remaining 50% received a placebo.

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Participants were monitored for 14 days to track symptom reduction, potential hospitalisation, progression to serious illness, or death.

Data also showed no benefit in faster resolution of symptom severity in participants who took zinc or vitamin C with hydroxychloroquine or placebo.

University of Minnesota infectious disease physician David Boulware said: “Taken together, there is no convincing evidence that hydroxychloroquine can either prevent Covid-19 after exposure or reduce illness severity after developing early symptoms.

“While disappointing, these results are consistent with an emerging body of literature that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t convey a substantial clinical benefit in people diagnosed with Covid-19, despite its activity against the virus in a test tube.”

Last month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US and Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis suspended their hydroxychloroquine trials, which were being conducted separately, in Covid-19 patients.

This was followed by a similar announcement by the World Health Organization.