Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A global study to test if either chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19 in vital frontline healthcare workers will open to UK participants at hospital sites in Brighton and Oxford today.

Close up on the hands of a health care worker taking a blood sample

Laboratory evidence shows that these well-established drugs might be effective in preventing or treating COVID-19 but there is no conclusive proof. Despite the lack of strong evidence these drugs are being widely recommended, and they are being widely used in some countries– so finding out if they can protect against COVID-19 - yes or no - is of tremendous importance.

Led by the University of Oxford and Wellcome supported Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok, Thailand, the COPCOV study is a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial that will enrol 40,000+ frontline healthcare workers and staff from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America who have close contact with patients with COVID-19 to determine definitively if chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are effective in preventing COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is a major risk for frontline healthcare workers around the world,” said COPCOV Co-Principal Investigator Professor Sir Nicholas White, of the University of Oxford who is based at MORU.

“We really do not know if chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are beneficial or harmful against COVID-19. The best way to find out if they are effective in preventing COVID-19 is in a randomised clinical trial. That’s what COPCOV is – and why we’re doing this study,” said Prof White.

Although many countries have begun to bend the curve of new COVID-19 cases per day downwards, the possibility of a second wave of cases cannot be excluded, and developing additional tools to protect frontline healthcare workers from contracting COVID-19 remains very important for the UK, as well as for many other countries in the world.

“Even though the lockdown has brought the rate of infection right down in the UK, healthcare workers will continue to be at risk of COVID-19, especially as measures are relaxed. A widely available, safe and effective vaccine may be a long way off. If drugs as well tolerated as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could reduce the chances of catching COVID-19 this would be incredibly valuable,” said lead COPCOV UK Investigator Prof Martin Llewelyn, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK.

Enrolment of the first UK participants in COPCOV is beginning today at the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The COPCOV UK sites are being managed by the Diabetes Trials Unit, University of Oxford. An additional four sites are expected to open by the end of May, towards a total of 25 COPCOV sites in the UK, by the end of June. Plans are well underway for new COPCOV study sites in Thailand and Southeast Asia, Italy, Portugal, Africa and South America. Results are expected by the end of this year (2020).

Any adult who works in a UK healthcare facility and is delivering direct care to patients with proven or suspected COVID-19 may participate in COPCOV, as long as they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have an acute respiratory infection (ARI).

After being enrolled in the study and giving their fully informed consent, each COPCOV participant will receive either chloroquine or a placebo (in Asia) or hydroxychloroquine or a placebo (in UK, Europe, Africa) for 3 months. Half the participants will receive the drug, half will receive a placebo. Selection will be random and neither the study team nor the participant will know if the participant is taking the drug or a placebo. This short video explains what happens when you enrol in COPCOV.

Sponsored by the University of Oxford (UK), COPCOV (Chloroquine/ hydroxychloroquine prevention of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)) is funded by a grant by the COVID-19 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome and MasterCard Therapeutics Accelerator. 

“Hard scientific evidence from large-scale clinical trials is essential. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have shown positive results in small-scale studies and anecdotally, but there are still many unknowns. These trials will give us the best understanding of how safe and effective these drugs might be across different populations and age groups. If – and only if – they are effective, these drugs can be scaled up and rolled out quickly across the world,” said Nick Cammack, COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Lead at Wellcome.

Accord Healthcare, a UK-based medicines manufacturer, has donated over two million tablets of hydroxychloroquine and matched placebo to enable this landmark trial to go ahead.

Dr Anthony Grosso, Vice President & Head of Scientific Affairs, Accord Europe & MENA said: “Based on the known pharmacology of hydroxychloroquine, coupled with the emerging knowledge surrounding SARS-CoV-2 viral replication and COVID-19 pathophysiology, we were very keen to test the effectiveness of this molecule in a preventative, rather than late-stage treatment setting. A large-scale, prospective, randomised, double-blind clinical trial in a high-risk setting is the only way to robustly determine if this medicine can lessen or prevent human infection. Previous studies have not adequately tested this hypothesis; the results of COPCOV are therefore of critical importance to public health.” 

To learn more visit our COPCOV trial page.                                                           

Similar stories

Laos’ first Pint of Science: warty newts, COVID, AI for Instagram, and more!

Organised by a grass-root community of thousands of scientists across the world, Pint of Science 2022 allowed researchers in 25 countries and over 800 cities to share their latest findings with lay folk in interesting, informal settings. Lao PDR joined the global Pint of Science family on Monday 9 May, when the first-ever Pint of Science Laos kicked off!

Patient recruitment on track in Oxford-led DeTACT trial of safe, effective drug combinations to prevent the spread of artemisinin and multi-drug resistant malaria in Africa

Today is World Malaria Day. The global fight against malaria is at a critical point. No new antimalarial drugs are expected in the near future, and if multi-drug resistant falciparum malaria becomes established in East Africa and spreads to other parts of Africa, millions will be at risk of drug-resistant malaria infection and death. The development of triple artemisinin-based combination therapies aims to prevent or delay the emergence of artemisinin and multi-drug resistant malaria in Africa.

PRIORITISE study team publishes results, now seeks partners

In regions where few people have received Covid-19 vaccines, health systems remain vulnerable to surges in SARS-CoV-2 infections. During the delta-wave of COVID-19 in India, for example, healthcare facilities and staff across the country struggled to cope with the surge in the number of cases of COVID-19 due to a shortage of hospital beds for people with severe cases, plus shortages of medicines and limited human resources.

Under the Mask, drama film based on testimonies of tuberculosis patients

In 2022, tuberculosis (TB) remains a major global health problem, particularly in developing countries. On the Thai-Myanmar border, TB is an important problem among migrants, a vulnerable, very mobile population, with unstable, often difficult living conditions, insecure incomes, and poor access to health services.

TACT-CV study shows artemether–lumefantrine plus amodiaquine an effective treatment for multidrug-resistant malaria in GMS

A triple artemisinin-based combination therapy (TACT) of artemether-lumefantrine plus amodiaquine (AL+AQ) for uncomplicated falciparum malaria in areas with a high prevalence of artemisinin resistance is a well-tolerated, effective treatment for multidrug-resistant parasites, say a team of MORU-led researchers.

Study finds steady increase in WHO-validated artemisinin resistance markers in Asia

From 2002-2018, there has been a steady increase in the places and proportion of infected people reporting validated kelch13 (K13) artemisinin resistance markers, according to a study in The Lancet Microbe. This increase in artemisinin resistance threatens efforts to eliminate malaria in Asia by 2030 — and control efforts in other endemic regions. The authors say that more consistent data collection, over longer time periods in the same areas, and rapid sharing of data are needed to map the spread of resistance and better inform policy decisions.