LSU Health New Orleans begins coronavirus treatment trial

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LSU Health New Orleans enrolls its first patient in a clinical trial testing the safety and effectiveness of giving COVID-19 patients hydroxychloroquine alone or with azithromycin.

Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Meredith Clement says they are enrolling patients who meet certain criteria.

"They must be admitted to the hospital, to the floor not going to an ICU bed, and they must also have symptom onset within seven days prior," says Clement.

The study may enroll up to 600 at University Medical Center, if they have enough patients eligible.

Patients will be sorted into three groups, one receiving hydroxychloroquine, one receiving hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, and one that will receive standard COVID-19 care. Clement says once admitted to the trial a patient will be sorted into one of the three groups.

"They get randomized to the treatment arm, and then they receive the medication, and also they get any other treatment his primary care team feels are indicated," says Clement.

Patients receiving the treatment will do so for five days.

Clement says the drugs are not without their side effects, so patients will be closely monitored.

"It’s possibly electrical disturbances in the heart because both hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin can have the same impact," says Clement.

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug, and azithromycin is an antibiotic. Clement says there is some evidence that these medications can shorten the disease and decrease the amount of virus in respiratory samples.