Tampa General Hospital continues hydroxychloroquine study on healthcare workers

Since launching in the spring, a nationwide clinical trial hopes to answer whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19 in healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients on the front lines.

Tampa General Hospital is participating, signing up nearly 190 people in May.

“We don’t have many studies that look into 'Does it really do a good job in preventing?' And we actually need good studies to answer that question,” Dr. Seetha Lakshmi of TGH and USF Health said.

Lakshmi says it’s part of the HERO Research Program, or Healthcare Worker Exposure-Response and Outcomes, and it focuses solely on the prevention of COVID-19 -- not treating the virus.

People enrolled in the eight-week trial do not go through it all at the same time. It will take months to gather answers and scientists are keeping tabs on any side effects.

“There are a few that are known that are related to GI upset in the first few days. But so far, we haven’t had any major safety concerns with hydroxychloroquine,” Lakshmi said.

What they are concerned about is the lack of healthcare workers participating in the trial.

“I think the final data for this study might take a while to come out, especially if we are not able to enroll a lot of people in this study,” Lakshmi said.

Dr. Lakshmi tells us opinions and misinformation about hydroxychloroquine have affected how many are joining.

“We have to focus on data, not dogma and in order to get the data from a scientific process it takes time and it takes commitment from people,” Lakshmi said.

She believes now is the perfect time for Florida healthcare workers to sign up.

“Our cases went up, they are plateauing now, and we have a lot of disease. And we can answer this question if we had folks understand that we have an answer yet to this question and see if it works or not,” Lakshmi said.

Dr. Lakshmi says it will take a while before they know for sure if hydroxychloroquine can prevent people from contracting COVID-19. She hopes more healthcare workers will sign up for the trial.

For information, call 813-844-2673, email research@tgh.org or visit https://heroesresearch.org/hero-hcq/