- The controversial drug coronavirus hydroxychloroquine has been featured in news reports widely in recent months, largely thanks to President Trump's high opinion of the drug and his hopes that it could be a game-changing cure for COVID-19.
- A study of 96,000 COVID-19 patients who were treated in hospitals around the world shows that hydroxychloroquine is more likely to cause serious side effects, including death, on treatment with coronavirus.
- Therapies that relied on a version of hydroxychloroquine combined with an antibiotic were even more dangerous for COVID-19 patients, the study shows.
Several favorite candidates emerged in the race to find useful coronavirus medications that can speed recovery times and reduce complications. There are different classes of drugs that could also be used in COVID-19 therapies. Some of them are new antibody-based drugs that can neutralize the virus and provide short-lived immunity. Others are vaccine candidates who will teach the immune system to create its own antibodies that kill COVID-19. And then we have common medications that are already used to treat other medical conditions and that have been reused for treatment with COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine is the most controversial in the latter group, and all thanks to the comments and actions of a single man who has been convinced of the efficacy of the drug in the fight against COVID-19. However, science is responding with evidence to the contrary, and a massive study of hydroxychloroquine reveals that the drug does more harm than good. And yes, that "damage,quot; can include death.
It all started with a promising study from France a few months ago, followed by anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine works against the new coronavirus. The drug is already safe and effective in fighting malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, and the French study seemed like fantastic news. But then, President Trump made the drug sound like a game changer, a drug that could save COVID-19 patients. Some took his advice and tried to use the drug to prevent the disease, and at least one person died in the United States after ingesting a substance with a similar name. People in Nigeria were also poisoned.
As more evidence emerged about the potentially damaging effects of hydroxychloroquine, Trump and his supporters lessened their rhetoric. But then Trump shocked the world by claiming that he had been taking hydroxychloroquine in an effort to prevent COVID-19 even though it was never suggested that the drug could stop infections.
A crucial detail about the safety of hydroxychloroquine is that the drug has been safe for many years due to the doses used to combat specific diseases. All COVID-19 therapies have been based on higher doses, which may explain the increased risk of side effects or even death. Now, a new study published Friday in The lancet provides extensive evidence of the harm that the use of hydroxychloroquine can have in therapy with COVID-19. The study could be the final nail in the coffin of this drug when it comes to coronavirus cures.
Experts who spoke to The Washington Post agree that hydroxychloroquine is a bad idea for COVID-19 patients in light of the study.
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. Harvard Medical School professor Mandeep Mehra observed COVID-19 patients hospitalized between December 20, 2019 and April 14, 2020 in 671 hospitals worldwide, excluding people with respirators and patients who received remdesivir. The mean age of the group was 54 years, and 53% of the cohort were male.
Almost 15,000 people received hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine alone or in combination with a macrolide antibiotic such as azithromycin or clarithromycin within 48 hours of diagnosis. The group receiving hydroxychloroquine had a 34% increase in the risk of death and a 137% increase in the risk of severe cardiac arrhythmias. Those who took hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic fared even worse, with those numbers rising to 45% and 411%, respectively.
Chloroquine levels were a 37% increase in risk of death and a 256% increase in risk of cardiac arrhythmia. Add an antibiotic and the risk of arrhythmia jumps to 311%.
Mehra said the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 is unwise. "I wish I had this information from the beginning," he said, "since there has potentially been harm to the patients."
"It is one thing to be without benefits, but this shows obvious harm," said Scripps Research Translation Institute cardiologist Eric Topol The Washington Post. "If there was ever hope for this drug, this is death."
Director of Preventive Cardiology at Stanford University School of Medicine David Maron said "these findings provide absolutely no reason for optimism that these drugs could be useful in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19,quot; .
The drug "can be harmful and nobody should take it outside of a clinical trial," said Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen.
This new study was observational, meaning the drug was not studied against a control group, but the conclusions are "very concerning," said former FDA chief scientist Jesse Goodman. Former FDA official Peter Lurie added that the study is "another nail in the coffin for hydroxychloroquine, this time from the largest study ever conducted."
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) last week announced a clinical study of 2,000 adults hydroxychloroquine to look at its combined effects with azithromycin in patients with COVID-19. A similar study is underway in the UK, to see if the medicine can protect medical personnel from infection. Topol said of the randomized US trial. USA That the NIH should reconsider in light of the Harvard research, and the other smaller studies that proved that hydroxychloroquine can be harmful. "It is very difficult to ignore that signal and it is worrying to keep giving it," he said.
University of Michigan cardiovascular specialist Geoffrey Barnes thinks the study should continue, as only the conclusions of a clinical trial would dampen some people's enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine.