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Sanford Health to conduct clinical trial for hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatment

Sanford Health to conduct clinical trial for hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatment

From the North Dakota coronavirus news roundup of the week: April 12-April 18 series
Hospital parade 2

A group of Sanford Health nurses line Seventh Street to wave as a parade of vehicles honking their horns and showing support to medical people pass by the hospital in downtown Bismarck on April 4. 

Sanford Health is undergoing a clinical trial investigating hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat malaria and some rheumatoid conditions. The drug has gained recent attention for its potential use against the coronavirus, something President Donald Trump has advocated.

Sanford's systemwide, randomized, placebo-controlled study initially will include 2,000 outpatients who have been exposed to COVID-19, including health care workers and high-risk patients, according to a Sanford release. The study could go out to five years, said Sanford Health spokesman Shawn Neisteadt.

"Obviously, they're hoping to have preliminary results much, much, much sooner than that," he told the Tribune.

No drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Patients who meet the study's criteria will give voluntary informed consent and will be medically screened prior to participating.

Sanford has established guidelines for prescribing hydroxychloroquine to hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Bismarck Sanford Health spokesman Jon Berg said patients in both Dakotas have been administered the drug, but he didn't have numbers of how many.

“Our goal is to meaningfully advance the science around COVID-19 so physicians can be better prepared to respond to and treat this novel virus in the future, especially for our populations most at-risk,” said Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer for Sanford Health.

Sanford has obtained "an adequate supply" of the drug for treating COVID-19 patients and ensuring it's available for other patients, too.

Sanford also will access the drug from an inventory of the Strategic National Stockpile secured by the state of South Dakota. Neisteadt said Sanford Health is working with other health care systems in South Dakota on the study, which could treat up to 100,000 patients.

“While this drug has been widely administered in the hope that it can help people, without controlled research studies we aren’t able to say for sure that it really works," said Dr. Susan Hoover, an infectious disease doctor and the study's principal investigator. "Conducting this study allows us to do everything we can to help our patients now, and at the same time gather critical information that will help patients in the coming months and years."

Sanford is headquartered in Sioux Falls and has hospitals in Bismarck and Fargo, among other locations in North Dakota.

In North Dakota, 40 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized, 13 of whom remained hospitalized on Monday.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or

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Capitol Reporter

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