Hydroxychloroquine linked to deaths, heart risks in COVID-19 study

Ruben Fields
May 23, 2020

"This is the first large-scale study to find statistically robust evidence that treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine does not benefit patients with Covid-19", said Prof Mandeep R. Mehra, lead author of the study and executive director of the Brigham and Women's hospital advanced heart disease center in Boston, US. But health officials had warned that it could cause heart problems.

It looked at data from 671 hospitals, where 14,888 patients were given either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, with or without the antibiotic macrolide, and 81,144 patients were not on any of the treatment regimens. Almost 15,000 of those patients were treated with hydroxychloroquine or the closely related drug chloroquine, or in combination with a type of antibiotics known as a macrolide such as azithromycin. "In the meantime, we suggest these drugs should not be used as treatments for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials".

A major study of the way hydroxychloroquine and its older version, chloroquine, have been used on six continents - without clinical trials - reveals a sobering picture.

Britain has ordered $42 million worth of hydroxychloroquine, despite numerous studies showing it is ineffective in treating Covid-19 and may even be more unsafe than doing nothing.

The difficulty with observational (sometimes called "real-world") studies is that, often, the patients whom doctors choose to treat with a drug are different - in this case, probably sicker - than those who go untreated.

The news release from The Lancet also emphasized that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have a "good safety profile" when taken as prescribed for malaria and autoimmune diseases - and that the study findings, "do not imply patients should stop taking these drugs if they are prescribed for approved conditions".

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Asked if the Premier League had an exact date for a return, Masters said the organisation had to be "flexible". We have to respect players' decisions not to return to training.

As President Donald Trump pushes to reopen the country despite warnings from doctors about the consequences of moving too quickly during the coronavirus crisis, he has been lashing out at scientists whose conclusions he doesn't like.

According to the CNN report, approximately 1 in 11 patients in the control group died in the hospital.

Donald Trump has claimed that he was consuming and promoting the drug. Last week, two studies published in the medical journal BMJ showed that patients given hydroxychloroquine did not improve significantly over those who were not.

Looking at the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals, they found that administering the drugs actually increased the risk of dying. Amy Abernethy, the principal deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration, told STAT this earlier this week.

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.

"It should not be used in the general population to prevent or to treat Covid-19 infection". There was also a 45 percent increased risk of death and a 411 percent increased risk of heart arrhythmias for those given the drug with and an additional antibiotic. 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".

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