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Gov. Noem Launches Statewide Trial of Hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 Treatment


South Dakota is launching the first statewide trial of a possible treatment for COVID-19 in the nation. The trial drug typically treats malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.   

President Donald Trump has pointed to hydroxychloroquine as a potential therapeutic for COVID-19, though its effectiveness has not yet been confirmed.

Governor Noem says she’s been asking the president and other members of his administration to allow South Dakota to launch a statewide trial. This weekend, the state received a shipment of the drug.

Noem says a trial usually needs about 2,000 participants.

“We can treat up to 100,000 people with the amount of doses we have in the state of South Dakota,” Noem says.

All three of the state’s major healthcare systems are on board. Dr. Allison Suttle is the chief medical officer for Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. She says researchers are learning hydroxychloroquine may prevent viruses from entering a person’s cells. 

“The only way a virus works is if it can infect another person and another person and another person," she explains. "So if we can stop the virus from entering the human cell, we can stop the virus from spreading.”

Dr. Suttle says there are multiple trials ongoing. There are in-patient and out-patient trials for patients who test positive for COVID-19, and there’s a clinical trial for high risk people who’ve been exposed to the virus.

“So now that the state has been able to get enough samples of the medication, every South Dakotan who has COVID-19 can have that discussion with their physician: ‘Am I a candidate? Am I a good option to receive hydroxychloroquine to help fight this disease?’” Dr. Suttle says.

Dr. Suttle adds the trials won’t impact the drug’s supply for people who use it to treat other conditions.