A new study has found that the widely used antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine shows promise at slowing the progression of a type of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to Science Focus.

Researchers at the University of Calgary found that patients with primary progressive MS who received hydroxychloroquine were less likely to significantly worsen over a period of 18 months.

In primary progressive MS, the disease gradually gets worse over time, according to WebMD. There are no well-defined attacks of symptoms, and there are little or no remissions. Plus, standard MS treatments do not work for this type of MS. Around 10% of people with MS have primary progressive MS.

Lead author Dr. Marcus Koch said, “With primary progressive MS, there is no good treatment to stop or reverse the progression of the disease. The disability progressively worsens through time.”

Dr. Koch, who led the study with Dr. Wee Yong, said, “Dr. Yong’s research team, with whom we closely collaborate, has been screening a large number of generic drugs over several years, and the results with hydroxychloroquine show some promise.”

“Our trial is a preliminary success that needs further research,” he added. “We hope sharing these results will help inspire that work, specifically larger scale clinical trials into the future.”

The researchers followed 35 patients with primary progressive MS over a period of 18 months from November 2016 to June 2018. The participants were given two doses of hydroxychloroquine a day.

The team noted how long it took the patients to walk 25 feet After six and 18 months. They expected at least 40% of the participants to worsen significantly over time, based on ongoing trial data. However, they found that only eight patients worsened.

Hydroxychloroquine become more popular in 2020 as a potential drug for COVID-19, with then US President Donald Trump stating he took the antimalarial drug to ward off the virus despite evidence suggesting that the drug may be unsafe.

Research has found no strong evidence that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Sold under the brand name Plaquenil, hydroxychloroquine is used to prevent or treat malaria caused by mosquito bites. It is also recommended for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.