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COVID-19 Treatment That Trump Called A 'Game Changer' Is Being Tested On Canadians

The hydroxychloroquine trial is led by McGill.
Hydroxychloroquine In Canada: Drug That Trump Called A 'Game Changer' Is Being Tested Here

A drug that the U.S. president has been talking up is actually being tested on Canadians. A giant study is testing hydroxychloroquine in Canada, and they're recruiting volunteers right now. People in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec who have been exposed to COVID-19 are invited to join their clinical trial.

The McGill-lead study has three branches taking place in Calgary, Montreal, and Manitoba*.

They started recruiting volunteers on Tuesday, March 17, and Dr. Ilan Schwartz, the principal investigator of the Albertan arm, told Narcity that results could come in just weeks.

"There's interest in hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a potential intervention to treat and perhaps prevent COVID-19," said Schwartz. "But we have no idea if it truly works in people."

HCQ is an antiviral drug normally used to treat malaria or lupus. But now, scientists and politicians are arguing whether it's good for COVID-19 too.

They plan to test 1,500 patients, with a possible scale-up to 3,000, across Canada. Schwartz said there are already 757 people enrolled.

The goal isn't to test whether HCQ could cure COVID-19, but if it would stop the disease from developing in the first place.

They're looking for volunteers that have been exposed to COVID-19 but haven't yet developed any symptoms. A second arm of the study is recruiting people who tested positive for COVID-19.

If you're interested and fit their criteria, you can sign up on their website.

The hype behind HCQ came after a controversial French study showed it was effective in treating COVID-19 patients.

Soon, popular figures like Tesla founder Elon Musk and even Trump picked up on the drug as a possible cure.

But Schwartz is skeptical. "Those studies were methodologically very flawed," he said of the earlier HCQ tests on patients. "Additional data is required," he added.

Despite this, people are buying into the hype.

Thousands of Americans rushed to try HCQ for themselves, sometimes with dangerous consequences. For example, a man from Arizona died after taking chloroquine phosphate, a drug used to treat fish, according to Slate.

"It's absolutely dangerous," said Schwartz, explaining that a drug we know so little about needs to be carefully tested with proper safety monitoring first.

The trials are making great progress, and Schwartz hopes to recruit other provinces into the effort.

With more helpers, the project could be finished sooner and we'll be able to take another step toward a possible treatment.

*This article has been updated.

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