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Barnabas RV, Brown ER, Bershteyn A, Stankiewicz Karita HC, Johnston C, Thorpe LE, Kottkamp A, Neuzil KM, Laufer MK, Deming M, Paasche-Orlow MK, Kissinger PJ, Luk A, Paolino K, Landovitz RJ, Hoffman R, Schaafsma TT, Krows ML, Thomas KK, Morrison S, Haugen HS, Kidoguchi L, Wener M, Greninger AL, Huang ML, Jerome KR, Wald A, Celum C, Chu HY, Baeten JM. Hydroxychloroquine as Postexposure Prophylaxis to Prevent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Infection : A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2020 Dec 8. doi: 10.7326/M20-6519. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33284679.

Background: Effective prevention against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is currently limited to nonpharmaceutical strategies. Laboratory and observational data suggested that hydroxychloroquine had biological activity against SARS-CoV-2, potentially permitting its use for prevention.

Objective: To test hydroxychloroquine as postexposure prophylaxis for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Design: Household-randomized, double-blind, controlled trial of hydroxychloroquine postexposure prophylaxis. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04328961).

Setting: National U.S. multicenter study.

Participants: Close contacts recently exposed (<96 hours) to persons with diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Intervention: Hydroxychloroquine (400 mg/d for 3 days followed by 200 mg/d for 11 days) or ascorbic acid (500 mg/d followed by 250 mg/d) as a placebo-equivalent control.

Measurements: Participants self-collected mid-turbinate swabs daily (days 1 to 14) for SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. The primary outcome was PCR-confirmed incident SARS-CoV-2 infection among persons who were SARS-CoV-2 negative at enrollment.

Results: Between March and August 2020, 671 households were randomly assigned: 337 (407 participants) to the hydroxychloroquine group and 334 (422 participants) to the control group. Retention at day 14 was 91%, and 10 724 of 11 606 (92%) expected swabs were tested. Among the 689 (89%) participants who were SARS-CoV-2 negative at baseline, there was no difference between the hydroxychloroquine and control groups in SARS-CoV-2 acquisition by day 14 (53 versus 45 events; adjusted hazard ratio, 1.10 [95% CI, 0.73 to 1.66]; P > 0.20). The frequency of participants experiencing adverse events was higher in the hydroxychloroquine group than the control group (66 [16.2%] versus 46 [10.9%], respectively; P = 0.026).

Limitation: The delay between exposure, and then baseline testing and the first dose of hydroxychloroquine or ascorbic acid, was a median of 2 days.

Conclusion: This rigorous randomized controlled trial among persons with recent exposure excluded a clinically meaningful effect of hydroxychloroquine as postexposure prophylaxis to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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