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Home / Health / Henry Ford’s hydroxychloroquine study for COVID-19 quietly closed

Henry Ford’s hydroxychloroquine study for COVID-19 quietly closed



Robin Erb
| Michigan Bridge

The Detroit-based clinical trial was launched in April. This is the first large-scale drug study on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in preventing COVID-19 and has quietly frozen.

Henry Ford health system officials told Bridge Michigan that they could not find enough participants to continue research on whether the drug could help contain the deadly pandemic.

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug and has also been shown to be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other inflammatory diseases. Last spring, when President Trump promoted it as a potential game-changing drug, it caused a brief excitement. However, the early optimism was replaced by the broader medical institute, and the country̵

7;s top health agency finally determined that it could not effectively treat or prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

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The Henry Ford study (WHIP COVID-19 clinical trial) involved 3,000 medical staff, first responders, public transportation drivers or family members of medical staff to determine whether hydroxychloroquine would prevent COVID-19 on the front lines.

Henry Ford cardiologist William O’Neill said in the announcement of the study with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan: “We know it will be very popular and we will try to recruit as many people as possible. “

related: FDA denies Henry Ford’s request to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

But it turns out that this optimism was misplaced, and only 624 people signed up. Henry Ford quietly ended his research before Christmas.

By then, BioNTech/Pfizer will ship the first batch of vaccines approved by the United States in Michigan, and use a new technology designed to activate the body’s own immune system to identify and fight the virus. Moderna approved the second vaccine and shipped it in mid-December.

In the process of ending research on hydroxychloroquine, Henry Ford said that he would shift the focus to vaccines as “the main strategy to protect frontline workers.” Email statement to Dr. John McKinnon, an infectious disease expert at Henry Ford’s Health System, and the WHIP COVID-19 lead researcher.

High hopes

When the study was first announced in April, Detroitans felt hopeless. Although the city’s population accounts for only 7% of Michigan, the city’s COVID deaths account for nearly a quarter of the state’s total. First responders paid a particularly high price. A few days ago, the mayor of Duggan revealed that after being exposed to COVID-19, nearly 500 policemen and more than 100 civilians were in the police force, and more than 100 city firefighters were still in isolation.

The mayor and Henry Ford quickly approved the trial at the request of officials from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Food and Drug Administration.

Dugan said in the statement: “If it is resolved, we will save the lives of the world’s first responders.”

Initially, this antimalarial drug seemed promising, and a small number of studies showed that it has a certain antiviral effect on people who treat COVID-19.

In July, Henry Ford researchers said that they found that hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin can improve the survival rate of 2,541 Henry Ford patients who were hospitalized early due to COVID-19. President Trump tweeted this research as part of his broader effort to find a solution to the deadly virus.

However, first-line clinicians have begun to doubt the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, and over time, larger studies have confirmed this, and these studies have failed to show important evidence of improvement in the condition of coronavirus patients.

Henry Ford’s research was severely criticized by scientists and experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci speaking at a congressional hearing because he lacked the scientific rigor necessary to reach such a conclusion.

In August, Henry Ford published a letter defending his work and insisted that his research was still “promising.” The letter said that due to the “political atmosphere… making any objective discussion of the drug impossible”, Henry Ford will no longer comment on “hydroxychloroquine outside of the medical community.”

More news comes in autumn. The World Health Organization published its findings in October, showing that the drug had “almost no effect” on the mortality rate of hospitalized COVID patients.

In November, an editorial in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association stated that Trump’s remarks about the drug contributed to the “misuse of hydroxychloroquine” in coronavirus cases.

In the same month, a study in the peer-reviewed Lancet medical journal pointed out that there was no significant difference in the COVID rate among people who took hydroxychloroquine for other reasons (such as lupus).

On December 21st, Henry Ford notified the Federal Clinical Trials Database that the database was about to terminate the trial. Although Henry Ford officials addressed Bridge, they refused to be interviewed despite repeated requests.

In addition to the low level of participation, the Henry Ford researchers also said that they realized that the “extremely low infection rate” of participants in the trial would make it “very unlikely” to tell whether the drug was effective.

Hospital officials said they are analyzing the data they have collected and will submit it to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when completed.

The Detroit Free Press, Michigan Bridge, and Michigan Radio have joined forces to report on Michigan hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. If you work in a hospital in Michigan, we will be happy to hear from you. You can contact Kristen Jordan Shamus at kshamus@freepress.com, Robin Erb at rerb@bridgemi.com, or Kate Wells at Katwells@umich.edu.


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