South Dakota first state for COVID-19 clinical trial treatment and prevention


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem announced Monday Sanford Health will lead a clinical trial investigating the drug hydroxychloroquine for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. The controlled study will initially include 2,000 outpatient individuals exposed to COVID-19, including frontline health care workers and other high-risk patients.

The Governor has asked for 1.2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine.

There are no proven drugs or therapeutics to prevent or treat COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine is one of the therapeutics that is under investigation in clinical trials for treatment of patients with mild, moderate and severe COVID-19.

“We’re going on offense to help every single person fight this virus,” Noem said.

By doing clinical trials during this pandemic, we are trying to find treatments, and thereby hope.

Dr. Allison Suttle, Sanford Health chief medical officer

“Our goal is to meaningfully advance the science around COVID-19 so physicians can be better prepared to respond to and treat this novel virus in the future, especially for our populations most at-risk,” Suttle said.

“Research is important as we currently have no vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. But even in a pandemic, drugs that could possibly benefit patients still need to be thoroughly studied. That’s why Avera is part of this clinical trial and that’s why we are also pursuing other research avenues to discover opportunities to lessen or eradicate this virus,” said Dr. David Erickson, Chief Medical and Innovation Officer for Avera Health.

Suttle said it shows how healthcare systems can come together. She said it’s not often a physician faces an unknown illness, and this is a new disease that physicians have no treatment options for. It takes a lot of research to determine what medication can help.

Sanford has developed a new randomized, placebo-controlled research study to investigate prescribing hydroxychloroquine to health care workers and high-risk populations who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. The treatment trial is designed to determine whether the medication can prevent the illness or minimize symptoms in these individuals.

It’s similar to a z-pak, and it stays in your body up to 50 days. Officials say the drug has the potential to work by preventing the inflammatory response and preventing the virus from getting into the cells in your body.

Researchers hypothesize that hydroxychloroquine could help an individual’s immune system as it works to fight off the disease. The medication may slow the replication process of the virus in the human body and allow the patient’s own immune system to get a better start in fighting the illness.

Officials say the most common adverse reactions to hydroxychloroquine are stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and headache. These side effects can often be lessened by taking hydroxychloroquine with food. Minor side effects usually do not require stopping the antimalarial drug. Although rare, serious side effects can occur while taking this medication.

Suttle said if a patient is admitted to the hospital and tests positive they can ask to be apart of the trial. She said it’s a conversation between physician and patient. Clinical trials are funded by the organization at no cost to the patient.

Governor Noem says South Dakota received the trial because of our response, our population size, the backing of the state and the partnership between Avera and Sanford.

All individuals who meet the study criteria will provide voluntary informed consent before participating and will be screened to make sure they do not have medical conditions that would make hydroxychloroquine less safe for them.

The announcement of the new clinical trial came while new case numbers for COVID-19 were shared by the state health department.

There are a total of 868 positive cases, up by 138 from Sunday (730).  Recoveries increased to 207, up from Sunday (197). 

There are 655 active cases.

There have been 8,134 negative tests, up from Sunday (7,823). 

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