PARIS: A major British clinical trial has found hydroxychloroquine has “no benefit” for patients hospitalised with Covid-19, scientists said on Friday, in the first large-scale study to provide results for a drug at the centre of political and scientific controversy.

Hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old malaria and rheumatoid arthritis drug, has been touted as a possible treatment for the new coronavirus by high profile figures, including US President Donald Trump, and has been included in several randomised clinical trials.

The University of Oxford’s Recovery trial, the biggest of these so far to come forward with findings, said that it would now stop recruiting patients to be given hydroxychloroquine “with immediate effect”.

“Our conclusion is that this treatment does not reduce the risk of dying from Covid among hospital patients and that clearly has a significant importance for the way patients are treated, not only in the UK, but all around the world,” said Martin Landray, an Oxford professor of medicine and epidemiology who co-leads the study.

The randomised clinical trial — considered the gold standard for clinical investigation — has recruited a total of 11,000 patients from 175 hospitals in the UK to test a range of potential treatments.

Other drugs continuing to be tested include: the combination of HIV antivirals Lopinavir and Ritonavir; a low dose of the steroid Dexamethasone, typically used to reduce inflammation; antibiotic Azithromycin; and the anti inflammatory drug Tocilizumab.

Researchers are also testing convalescent plasma from the blood of people who have recovered from Covid-19, which contains antibodies to fight the virus.

Researchers said 1,542 patients were randomly assigned to hydroxychloroquine and compared with 3,132 patients given standard hospital care alone.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2020