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Antimalarial drug no better than standard coronavirus care: study

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Hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug dubbed a “gift from God” by US President Donald Trump for its potential ability to fight the new coronavirus, was found to be no more effective than standard treatment in a small Chinese study.

The paper, which was published in the Journal of Zhejiang University on March 6, looked at 30 COVID-19 patients, half of whom received the medicine.

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After seven days, 13 of the patients who were on the drug tested negative, compared to 14 people who weren’t on it.

One of the patients on it went on to develop severe illness, while the median time taken for the individuals to recover was similar in both groups.

The sample size is considered too small to be statistically significant.

But a similar number of patients were examined in a recent French study that found the same drug to be highly effective at fighting the infection, especially when taken in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin.

That triggered heightened global interest in hydroxychloroquine, and a related compound called chloroquine, which are synthetic forms of quinine and have for decades been used to treat malaria, as well as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

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President Donald Trump last week announced his administration was working with pharmaceutical companies to expand access to the medicines so that more doctors can prescribe them “off label” — meaning not for their original intended use.

Trump has said they could be a “gift from God” and a “game changer,” even as many scientists have cautioned against overhyping unproven medicines before large scale clinical trials are carried out.

Such experiments are considered the gold standard in the field, last months or years and involve thousands of patients, often from around the world.

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Patients are assigned at random to either receive the drug under investigation or a placebo, and the studies are “blinded” meaning the participants and their doctors are unaware which group they are in, to further reduce bias.

New York state, now the US epicenter of the pandemic with more than 30,000 cases and almost 200 deaths, began such a trial on Tuesday.

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A man in Arizona, meanwhile, died this week after he ingested a non-medical form of chloroquine used to fight parasites in aquariums.

His wife, who also took the substance and was hospitalized, reported they had heard Trump talk about the benefits of the medicine and decided to try it.

Photo: Packets of Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine (GERARD JULIEN AFP)

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This Europe country is housing quarantined coronavirus patients in a five-star hotel

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An ambulance driver wearing a white protective gown enters a Barcelona hotel and announces the arrival of three new "customers" -- a trio of coronavirus patients discharged from hospital into luxury quarantine.

"Good morning! How are you? My name is Enrique Aranda and I am probably the first non health care worker you see in several days," says the director of the five-star Melia Sarria hotel, peering into the ambulance.

It took just three days to convert the hotel, which features contemporary decor and bathrooms with marble finishing, into a clinic.

"Some patients arrive thinking that they were taken out of hospital to be left to die, many people are frightened. I try to make them forget all that," said Aranda, wearing mask and gloves.

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UK Labour to unveil new leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn

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Britain's main opposition Labour party on Saturday unveils a new leader who will take the helm of a defeated and divided party in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

Keir Starmer, a former director of state prosecutions and Labour's Brexit spokesman, is the runaway favourite to win the ballot of around 500,000 party members and succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The announcement will be a low-key affair, with a planned special conference cancelled due to restrictions on social gatherings imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, the result will be put out in a press release mid-morning -- and candidates have been asked to pre-record their victory speeches.

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‘Trump fires people for telling the truth’: President blasted for ‘dead of night decision’ to fire intel watchdog

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President Donald Trump was harshly criticized on Friday for firing intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

House Intel Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senate Intel Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) were among the lawmakers who took to Twitter to criticize Trump on his favorite social media platform.

Here's some of what people were saying about Trump's decision:

Trump’s dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.

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