Background: Novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is known to be susceptible in vitro to exposure to hydroxychloroquine and its effect has been found to be potentiated by azithromycin. We hypothesise that early administration of hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with azithromycin can prevent respiratory deterioration in patients admitted to intensive care due to rapidly progressive COVID-19 infection.
Methods: Design: Prospective, multi-centre, double-blind, randomised, controlled trial (RCT).
Participants: Adult (> 18 years) within 24 h of admission to the intensive care unit with proven or suspected COVID-19 infection, whether or not mechanically ventilated. Exclusion criteria include duration symptoms of febrile disease for ≥ 1 week, treatment limitations in place or moribund patients, allergy or intolerance of any study treatment, and pregnancy.
Interventions: Patients will be randomised in 1:1:1 ratio to receive Hydroxychloroquine 800 mg orally in two doses followed by 400 mg daily in two doses and azithromycin 500 mg orally in one dose followed by 250 mg in one dose for a total of 5 days (HC-A group) or hydroxychloroquine + placebo (HC group) or placebo + placebo (C-group) in addition to the best standard of care, which may evolve during the trial period but will not differ between groups. Primary outcome is the composite percentage of patients alive and not on end-of-life pathway who are free of mechanical ventilation at day 14.
Secondary outcomes: The percentage of patients who were prevented from needing intubation until day 14, ICU length of stay, and mortality (in hospital) at day 28 and 90.
Discussion: Although both investigational drugs are often administered off label to patients with severe COVID-19, at present, there is no data from RCTs on their safety and efficacy. In vitro and observational trial suggests their potential to limit viral replication and the damage to lungs as the most common reason for ICU admission. Therefore, patients most likely to benefit from the treatment are those with severe but early disease. This trial is designed and powered to investigate whether the treatment in this cohort of patients leads to improved clinical patient-centred outcomes, such as mechanical ventilation-free survival.
Trial registration: Clinical trials.gov: NCT04339816 (Registered on 9 April 2020, amended on 22 June 2020); Eudra CT number: 2020-001456-18 (Registered on 29 March 2020).
Keywords: Azithromycin; COVID-19; Hydroxychloroquine; Novel coronavirus; Respiratory failure; SARS-CoV-2.