New study: hydroxychloroquine not effective in COVID-19 patients

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A new study suggests that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in COVID-19 patients. There is a link between hydroxychloroquine and higher death rates.

Infected individuals taking hydroxychloroquine, a treatment touted by US President Donald Trump, were no less likely to need mechanical ventilation. Moreover, they recorded higher deaths rates compared to those who did not take the drug. These are the findings of a study of hundreds of patients at US Veterans Health Administration medical centers.

The study, published on medrxiv.org, a pre-print server or a platform not peer reviewed or published in a medical journal, was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia.
Researchers examined veterans’ medical charts. Based on the evaluation of 368 patients, 97 patients who took hydroxychloroquine recorded a 27.8% death rate. Meanwhile, the 158 patients who did not take the drug had an 11.4% death rate.
“An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs,” wrote the authors.
The authors work at the Columbia VA Health Care System in South Carolina, the University of South Carolina and the University of Virginia.
Furthermore, the team analyzed whether taking hydroxychloroquine or a combination of hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin could determine whether a patient needed to go on a ventilator.
“In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19,” the authors wrote.

No approved COVID-19 treatment yet

To date, the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved any product that can prevent or treat COVID-19, although research is underway on many promising drugs.
For many decades, hydroxychloroquine has been used to treat patients with diseases like  malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. But findings suggest that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in COVID-19 patients.
Trump described the drug as a “game changer” for COVID-19 and claimed that hydroxychloroquine shows “tremendous promise.”
Doctors previously warned that hydroxychloroquine needs further studies especially about its effectiveness and safety even if the president is enthusiastic about it.

Abnormal heart rhythms

Another recent study in France looked into the medical records of 181 coronavirus patients who had pneumonia and needed supplemental oxygen. Half of them had taken hydroxychloroquine within 48 hours of admission in the hospital, and the other half had not.
Their results revealed that there was no statistically significant difference in the death rates of the two groups. There is also no relation to their chances of admission to the intensive care unit.
However, this study identified eight patients who took the drug and developed abnormal heart rhythms and had to stop taking it. This research does not have peer review yet nor publication in a medical journal.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a guidance on taking hydroxychloroquine. CDC “clarifies that “hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are under investigation in clinical trials” for use on coronavirus patients.
Moreover, “there are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19,” CDC says.
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