Sanford Health CMO: COVID-19 drug answers are 6 months away

CNN interviews Dr. Allison Suttle about coronavirus cases and clinical trial

Split-screen view of Dr. Allison Suttle and John King on CNN

Sanford Research scientists hope to have results from their clinical trial of a COVID-19 drug within six months, Dr. Allison Suttle told CNN on Wednesday.

John King interviewed Sanford Health’s chief medical officer via WebEx during King’s live show, “CNN Newsroom.”

“What we’re trying to answer is the question around hydroxychloroquine: Does it work, or does it not work?” said Dr. Suttle. “We look at this disease as a whole and therapies that may be effective and different areas where that may be effective.”

COVID-19 clinical trial

Earlier this week, Sanford Health announced it will lead a comprehensive clinical trial investigating the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. The health system’s researchers hope to understand its role in treating and potentially preventing COVID-19.

Sanford is enrolling 2,000 individuals exposed to COVID-19, including front-line health care workers and other high-risk patients. Dr. Suttle explained to CNN how the drug and the study will work.

“Hydroxychloroquine is one of those (therapies) that has the potential to prevent the virus from entering the human cell,” she said. “What we decided to do is to look at patients who were exposed to the virus, then offer those patients hydroxychloroquine or a placebo and look to see if they develop the disease or not. And if they do develop the disease, is it severe or less severe?”

Dr. Suttle also appeared Thursday on CNN International’s “First Move.” CNN International host Julia Chatterley raised concerns about side effects of hydroxychloroquine, especially on high-risk people.

“The first thing we say is we have to do no harm,” Dr. Suttle said. “They’re very careful at creating exclusion criteria, at which an individual would not be able to be on the clinical trial.”

COVID-19 cases in South Dakota

King asked about a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in South Dakota, where Sanford Health is based. Dr. Suttle said she has seen a “trickling of cases in our medical centers” but that stay-home efforts and social distancing have helped slow the spread of the disease.

She attributed the large number of recent diagnoses to an outbreak at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sanford Health has offered free testing to affected workers and anyone who has been exposed to a known COVID-19 patient or is experiencing symptoms.

“We’re here as a health system to take care of those individuals that do become ill,” Dr. Suttle said. “I do know that the state department of health does significant contact tracing … so when one of the Smithfield employees is diagnosed as positive with the COVID virus, they’re able to identify those contacts and recognize those individuals and get those contacts isolated as well.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Research, Sioux Falls

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