Background: In early April, as part of the JLF Research Division’s ongoing series of research briefs recommending ways to address the coronavirus, I published a brief on the potential use of hydroxychloroquine to protect doctors, nurses, and first responders on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

Here’s a snippet:

What all this indicates is that what informed the passage of last week’s emergency rule is no longer the best available information. There are more indications that these treatments are effective and less need to worry about a shortage. Several other states that initially passed limits or prohibitions on hydroxychloroquine have seen the same shifting landscape and subsequently changed their prohibitions.

Recommendation: Allow health care workers and first responders on the front lines to receive preventative prescriptions of hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, azithromycin, etc.

Why: to protect them from the virus along with masks, gloves, and other PPE

All that being the case, DHHS should move to allow preventative or precautionary prescriptions of hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, azithromycin, etc. for health care workers and first responders on the front lines in this all-out public health war. State health officials should also consider prescribing for their immediate families as well as patients awaiting test results (for as long as results take days to return). Physicians should, of course, give all due consideration of the risks of the drugs in determining whether it is suitable for each affected individual.

But along with masks, gloves, and other PPE, this could be a big boost in North Carolina’s effort against the coronavirus.

For that reason I found this news today intriguing, which was originally titled “Duke trial tests if hydroxychloriquine prevents COVID-19“:

More than 800 health care workers have enrolled in a study based at Duke University to determine whether the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine can help ward off COVID-19, and organizers are looking for more volunteers.

Participants in the clinical trial are drawn from a pool of people who have enrolled in The Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes (HERO) Registry. …

So far, the only study drawing volunteers from the HERO Registry involves hydroxychloroquine or HCQ, which is used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The drug has received lots of attention from the public and the press after President Donald Trump endorsed it as a way to prevent coronavirus infection, then disclosed last month that he was taking it for that reason. The Food and Drug Administration has cautioned against using HCQ to treat COVID-19 unless administered in a hospital or as part of a clinical trial because of a risk of heart rhythm problems.

As the article mentioned, Pres. Trump took a two-week course of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive treatment under the advice of a physician after two White House workers tested positive for COVID-19.

It would be interesting to see whether Gov. Roy Cooper is taking or has taken hydroxychloroquine (or some other preventive regimen) as a precaution for participating in a mass gathering over 25 with no social distancing and no mask on properly.