DETROIT – Local 4′s Dr. Frank McGeorge is offering rare insight into a study that experts at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit hope can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Dr. McGeorge is personally enrolled in the study. He recently joined as a frontline healthcare worker in the emergency room, where he’s being exposed to the virus during every shift.
Last week, Henry Ford Health System began enrollment in a study to test whether hydroxychloroquine might be effective in preventing people from developing COVID-19. Dr. McGeorge said these types of studies are extremely important.
The simple fact is that despite all the hype, we really don’t know whether hydroxychloroquine can treat or prevent COVID-19.
To really find that answer with certainty, experts have to call on the gold standard of study designs: a double blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Here’s what that means.
“'WHIP COVID’ stands for will hydroxychloroquine impede or prevent COVID-19, and that’s the question of the hour,” said Dr. Steve Kalkanis, CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group. “This trial is specifically geared toward first responders and healthcare workers.”
The WHIP COVID-19 study is in the elite group of double blind, randomized placebo-controlled studies.
“(Double blind means) the people administering the drug, the study organizers and the people participating in the study -- neither side knows which group is getting the placebo and white is getting the active drug,” Kalkanis said.
It’s important to eliminate any bias in the way someone’s belief about the medication might alter their symptoms, behavior or outcome.
Basically there is a master list used at the end of the study to decode who received which pill, but until that code is unlocked, it’s a secret to everyone.
“Randomized” means every participant is randomly assigned, with equal chance to be in the treatment or the placebo group. It’s important to eliminate the possibility that more people with one type of exposure or risk factor could be over-represented in one group.
A placebo control means even though everyone is taking a pill every day, some are getting medication and some aren’t. That’s also important to eliminate bias. Everyone takes the same number of pills throughout the study.