Research Roundup: Caution on hydroxychloroquine, BARDA director ousted, first at-home COVID-19 test
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In the largest study yet of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine’s effect on patients with COVID-19, there was a higher rate of deaths among those being treated with hydroxychloroquine and hydroxychloroquine plus the antibiotic azithromycin than those who received standard care. The study was a retrospective analysis of treatments for 368 patients rather than a rigorous, randomized controlled trial. It’s also important to note that patients who were treated with the drug were those who were the most sick. Yet, the study raises further questions about this treatment that has been widely used during the pandemic and promoted by President Trump. Reflecting on these findings, a panel of experts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released new COVID-19 treatment guidelines that specifically caution against the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, with and without azithromycin, outside of clinical trials.
Dr. Rick Bright has been transferred from his position as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research Authority (BARDA)—a key agency involved in developing COVID-19 medical countermeasures—for a more narrowly focused position at NIH, just as BARDA has received supplemental funding more than ten times larger than its base funding of US $562 million to support coronavirus product development. Dr. Bright is asserting he was removed from his position because he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that has been frequently touted by President Trump as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved under emergency use authorization the first of its kind at-home diagnostic test for COVID-19. Developed by LabCorp, the Pixel COVID-19 test includes an at-home collection kit, which will need to be ordered by a doctor, that provides patients with a nasal swab and saline solution for self-sampling. Patients will swab their noses, then mail their samples to LabCorp testing centers where LabCorp will use real-time PCR for diagnosis.