South Dakota becomes first state to run hydroxychloroquine clinical trial


Gracie Terrall, Copy Editor

South Dakota will be the first in the nation to undergo a statewide clinical trial for antiviral, hydroxychloroquine, to combat COVID-19. 

“This will be the first-ever state-endorsed, state-backed, state-wide clinical trial available in the United States to help take care of our people here,” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said. 

There are two components to the trial. 

The first is a registry trial for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. Patients, both inpatient and outpatient, can talk with their physician about undergoing the trial. This trial is funded by Sanford Health and is no cost to the patient. The second component is a randomized trial for people who have been exposed to it. This includes healthcare workers or individuals that live in a household with a positive patient.

According to Dr. Allison Suttle, the chief medical officer for Sanford Health, the hydroxychloroquine tests will be similar to a Z-Pak – or a five-day course of medicine. There will be a loading dose and then it is to be taken four to five days after. The drug is expected to stay in the body for 30-50 days. 

Hydroxychloroquine works by stopping the virus from entering the human cell.

“If we prevent the virus from entering a human cell, we can stop the virus from spreading,” Suttle said. 

Noem wanted to stress, however, that it will be months, if not years before a true vaccine for COVID-19 is available. 

Sanford Health issued a press release that announced the clinical trial. According to the press release, there are no drugs or therapeutics the U.S. Food and Drug Association has endorsed to help stop COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine will go under investigation and will include 2,000 outpatient individuals. Noem said that South Dakota can treat up to 100,000 people with the number of doses available. 

Researchers hypothesize that hydroxychloroquine could help an individual’s immune system as it works to fight off the disease,” the press release read. “The medication may slow the replication process of the virus in the human body and allow the patient’s own immune system to get a better start in fighting the illness.”

Additional Information:

  • Although Sanford will be leading the trials, both Avera and Monument Health in South Dakota will be participating.
  • The federal government will be supplying South Dakota with 2 million dollars to help fund the trial process. 
  • The District Attorney and Indian Health Services have been involved in discussions about whether they will be a part of the trial.