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, a pre-print server or a platform not peer reviewed or published in a medical journal, was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia.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.