An worldwide research team led by the University Hospital of Zurich and Harvard Medical School finds the controversial antimalarial drugs, hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug chloroquine, show no benefit against Covid-19. "Instead, our findings suggest it may be associated with an increased risk of serious heart problems and increased risk of death".
In a study published May 22 in the journal Lancet, scientists in the USA and Switzerland report on an analysis of more than 96,000 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 in 671 hospitals on six continents.
Seriously ill COVID-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine or the closely-related drug chloroquine were more likely to die or develop risky arrhythmia, namely irregular heart rhythms that can lead to sudden cardiac death, it concluded. All of them were in hospitals between December 20 and April 14.
The Food and Drug Administration last month warned against widespread use of the drugs because of harmful side effects including heart issues. The US president then claimed hydroxychloroquine - less toxic than the original chloroquine - was a cure, and later said he was taking it himself against coronavirus.
It was started to be administered to coronavirus patients after the French doctor Didier Raoult said that he was using it to treat COVID patients. Of this population, 1,868 patients received chloroquine, 3,783 received chloroquine with a macrolide, 3,016 received hydroxychloroquine, and 6,221 received hydroxychloroquine with a macrolide.
The Lancet study authors suggested these treatment regimens should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials until results from clinical trials are available. Randomized clinical trials will be required before any conclusion can be reached regarding benefit of harm of these agents in COVID-19 patients.
CNN reports, "About 1 in 11 patients in the control group died in the hospital".
Province To Expand COVID-19 Testing
The province says 984 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, with 155 being treated in intensive care units. As of Thursday afternoon, Ontario reported 24,187 coronavirus cases and 1,993 total deaths.
Looking at the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals, they found that administering the drugs actually increased the risk of dying. The drug makes them sicker. The other 81,144 patients served as a control group.
Demand for hydroxychloroquine surged in the USA after Mr Trump first promoted its use as a coronavirus treatment in early April, with sales of the drug doubling according to an analysis of sales from March of this year and sales in March 2019. The evidence for the drug's effectiveness, however, hasn't been established, although ongoing rigorous trials randomly assigning patients to receive hydroxychloroquine or placebo are still ongoing (including one headed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health).
The study examined 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents and found that people who took it had a higher risk of death compared to those who did not.
Those who were treated with hydroxychloroquine had a mortality rate of 18 percent.
He offered similar pushback Thursday to a new study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
Reference: "Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis" by Mandeep R Mehra, Sapan S Desai, Frank Ruschitzka and Amit N Pate, 22 May 2020, The Lancet. As many as 8 percent of them developed a heart arrhythmia, as against 0.3 percent who were not given any drugs.