Health Care

Hydroxychloroquine shows no coronavirus benefit, raises death risk

"Treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine does not benefit patients with COVID-19", said Mandeep Mehra, lead author of the study and executive director of the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Disease in Boston.

The analysis included data from 671 hospitals across six continents, which pooled together resulted in 96,032 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were hospitalized between December 2019 and April 2020.

- A 45% increase in risk of death for those given hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic, and a 411% increase in risk of serious heart arrhythmias.

This week, Trump said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative medicine, despite a lack of scientific evidence. That study, funded in part by the U.S. government's National Institutes of Health, found higher overall mortality in coronavirus patients who took hydroxychloroquine while in Veterans Administration hospitals.

A Wisconsin woman has taken the unproven coronavirus drug hydroxychloroquine for almost two decades for another health condition - and says she was still infected by the virus, according to a report. The risk of developing a serious heart rhythm problem is more than five times greater.

"The best way to find out if they are effective in preventing COVID-19 is in a randomized clinical trial".

They compared outcomes from patients treated with chloroquine alone, hydroxychloroquine alone, chloroquine in combination with azithromycin or clarithromycin, or hydroxychloroquine with one of the antibiotics. The findings were based on an analysis of medical records and not a controlled study.

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According to the scientists, all four of the treatments were associated with a higher risk of dying in hospital.

He said: "'If drugs as well tolerated as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could reduce the chances of catching COVID-19 this would be incredibly valuable".

The biggest risk increase was seen in the group treated with hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic, where 8 per cent of patients who got the combination developed a heart arrhythmia, compared with 0.3 per cent of those in the comparison group.

About 15% of the patients were treated with the antimalaria drugs alone or with an antibiotic within 48 hours of diagnosis.

It noted that on accounting for factors like age, race, body weight, and underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, the drug regimens were associated with an increased risk of death. When taking those factors into account, the study found that the mortality rate for the group that did not take the drug was 9.3 percent. "Each of these drug regimens was associated with decreased in-hospital survival and an increased frequency of ventricular arrhythmias when used for treatment of COVID-19", the researchers from Harvard and other institutions concluded.

Trump's White House physician later released a statement, saying that the "benefit outweighed the potential risks" of the drug. "These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs". Mehra notes that the study included only people diagnosed with COVID-19, while the President has not been reported to be infected.

"It might even be said that to go on giving them, other than in a trial, is unethical, given this evidence that is not yet contradicted by other available evidence".



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