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Hydroxychloroquine could still prevent COVID-19 and save tens of thousands of lives around the world, say leading scientific researchers. While it doesn’t work in treatment of hospitalised patients, it could still prevent infections. However, fraudulent data, unjustified extrapolation and exaggerated safety concerns together with intense politicisation and negative publicity may stop COPCOV, the only large, global clinical trial testing hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 prevention, from ever finding out.

COPCOV participant using a mobile app to report their health © MORU 2020. Photographer: Supa-at (Ice) Asarath.
COPCOV participants will use a mobile app to report their health daily.

COPCOV is a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled global study aiming to enrol 40,000 healthcare workers to determine if hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can prevent COVID-19 that is led by the University of Oxford and the Wellcome supported Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok. 

“There is no guarantee that we’ll soon have a widely available vaccine against COVID-19. Despite all the publicity, we still do not know if hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19, but it’s really important that we find out, one way or the other. The only way to do this is to enrol a large number of participants in randomised controlled trials like COPCOV,” said Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust.  

Previous prevention studies were too small to show conclusive evidence whether hydroxychloroquine works or not as a preventive. 

The full story is available on the Centre for Tropical Medicine & Global Health website