It's too soon to say if hydroxychloroquine, the drug touted by President Donald Trump, is a breakthrough COVID-19 treatment. But the University of Minnesota is at the forefront of efforts to find out if it works, and its medical researchers are asking the public for help.
Despite the buzz around the drug, the U is still short of the 1,500 enrollees it needs for a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness. Meeting this goal is critical to ensure the scientific rigor necessary to reliably evaluate the drug.
There's no need to live in Minnesota to participate. The study is open to residents of the United States and Canada. There are other narrower criteria to meet, however.
The U needs volunteers who have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms and have been "closely exposed to a person with confirmed/test-proven COVID-19 disease within four days of enrolling and live in the same household as this person or are a healthcare worker."
It also needs volunteers with COVID-19 symptoms who are not hospitalized and have either tested positive within four days of when the symptoms began or are a "household contact or healthcare worker with a confirmed/test-proven COVID-19 contact, and currently within the first four days of experiencing compatible symptoms with pending/unavailable testing."
Study participants are not paid, but the medication is free. The research's focus is also solely on hydroxychloroquine. Some other studies have involved giving the drug in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin, but the U's study will not. People who are already taking hydroxychloroquine for other medical conditions, such as lupus, are not eligible.
Self-medicating with hydroxychloroquine is risky because the drug can have serious side effects. Getting involved in a clinical trial is a much safer way for those interested in this treatment to take it. Doing so is also valuable public service, helping settle the debate over whether it works.
For more information about enrolling, go to covidpep.umn.edu. The U is also looking for health care workers and first responders to help it evaluate preventive COVID-19 treatments. Those interested should send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.