Hydroxychloroquine is traditionally used against malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis but is approved for emergency use against COVID-19, the new disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said the comprehensive trial was launched after contact with White House officials, including direct requests to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for enough hydroxychloroquine doses for the trial. That request was met.
“We’re now the first state to do a full clinical trial to test whether hydroxychloroquine can treat and perhaps prevent COVID-19,” she said in a statement.
The drug will be given to healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients as a prophylactic, a move already recommended by India, a primary producer of the tablets, last month.
Sanford Health, which describes itself as the largest provider of rural health care in America, will treat up to 100,000 patients with hydroxychloroquine.
“The health care community in South Dakota consistently works together with the state for the benefit of all our patients,” South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said in a statement. “I am excited patients across the state will have access to this drug, and we will learn more about its benefits in treating and even preventing COVID-19.”
Hydroxychloroquine is being prescribed by doctors across the nation and used in a number of other countries. Several clinical trials in France and China showed promising results but some health experts and doctors have described them as too small and dismissed anecdotal reports of the drug and the closely related chloroquine preventing or treating the new disease.
Several trials are underway in the United States, including one run by the National Institutes of Health.
South Dakota reported 138 new cases of COVID-19 overnight, including dozens among employees of Smithfield Foods, some of whom were hospitalized.
The state now has 868 confirmed cases, according to the state Department of Health, while 8,134 people have tested negative. Only 44 of the patients have ever been hospitalized. Six have died. Another 207 patients recovered.