Hydroxychloroquine is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, according to a study published in The Lancet.
Findings revealed that COVID-19 patients that were given hydroxychloroquine are more likely to experience irregular heart rhythms. The researchers evaluated more than 96,000 patients from 671 hospitals across six continents.
US President Donald Trump defends taking hydroxychloroquine to repel coronavirus amidst warnings from public health officials.
Health experts gave a warning that it may be unsafe for people to take unproven drug hydroxychloroquine.
During a White House briefing, Trump said he began taking the malaria and lupus medication hydroxychloroquine recently. He suggested that taking this drug can ward off coronavirus.
“I’m taking it for about a week and a half now and I’m still here, I’m still here,” he said.
“You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the frontline workers before you catch it, the frontline workers, many, many are taking it,” he told reporters. “I happen to be taking it.”
Increased risk of mortality
However, there was no study at the time that can prove hydroxychloroquine can eliminate coronavirus.
The new study published in The Lancet was written through the evaluation of patients with COVID-19 between Dec. 20 and April 14 by Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and other institutions.
The team reported that 14,888 patients were given hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, either alone or in combination with a macrolide. The remaining 81,144 patients were placed in the control group. Meanwhile, almost 10,700 patients died in the hospital.
Results showed a 34% increase in risk of mortality for patients who took hydroxychloroquine and a 137% increased risk of serious heart arrhythmia after controlling for multiple factors, including sex, race, age, and underlying health conditions.
White House physician Dr. Sean Conley released a memo saying that he and Trump concluded “the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”
For the current study, the White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
“Zero symptoms” for Trump
A reported asked Trump during a White House briefing about evidence affirming the positive benefits of hydroxychloroquine. Trump replied: “Here’s my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it.”
“I’ve heard a lot of good stories [about hydroxychloroquine] and if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right I’m not going to get hurt by it,” he added.
Trump said that he had “zero symptoms” and was being tested frequently despite having some White House personnel who tested positive for coronavirus.
He stressed that he had been consuming a daily zinc supplement. He also took a single dose of azithromycin, an antibiotic that can prevent infection.
Trump said it was his decision and request to take those drugs, and no White House physician advised him to do so.
Another study published in the JAMA Network showed that hydroxychloroquine does not help Covid-19 patients and, instead, placed them at increased risk of cardiac arrest.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced through an advisory that hydroxychloroquine has “not been shown to be safe and effective”.
The FDA presented reports suggesting a link between hydroxychloroquine and serious heart rhythm problems in COVID-19 patients.