Hydroxychloroquine Linked to Deaths, Heart Risks in Covid Study

Henrietta Strickland
May 22, 2020

In fact, as the evidence continues to suggest that hydroxychloroquine may not provide much benefit, and instead might increase the risk of harm to the heart, Mehra says doctors may shift from considering hydroxychloroquine to other drugs being studied as COVID-19 treatments, like remdesivir.

Mehra and his team analyzed data from more than 96,000 patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 - the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 illness - between December 2019 and April 2020 in several countries, but more than half of the cases were in North America.

Arrhythmia's greatest risk was in the group who received hydroxychloroquine and a macrolide antibiotic such as azithromycin (8% versus 0.3% of controls), and this regimen was associated with a more than five-fold risk of developing an arrhythmia while hospitalized, though cause and effect can not be inferred, the group noted.

President Trump said earlier this week that he's been taking "hydroxy" for more than a week as a preventative medicine because he's "heard a lot of good stories" about it. Trump also claimed the veterans' study was "false" and an "enemy statement", yet provided no evidence for his claims. The research, which was paid for by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia, evaluated data from 368 COVID-19 patients and found that about 28 percent who were given the drug in addition to the usual care died, versus 11 percent of those who only received routine care.

According to the researchers, including Mandeep Mehra from Brigham and Women's Hospital in the US, COVID-19 patients on these drug regimens, experienced an increased risk of serious heart rhythm complications. The findings were based on an analysis of medical records and not a controlled study. About 14,000 of which received one of four drug cocktails that included chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. For years, hydroxychloroquine has been considered a generally safe and effective treatment for malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Those 8% of patients combining HCQ with antibiotics were also more likely to develop a heart arrhythmia, the study argues. But two different studies each including 1,400 patients treated in NY during the Covid-19 pandemic showed no impact on mortality at all.

The researchers estimated that the excess risk attributable to the use of the drugs rather than other factors such as underlying health issues ranged from 34% to 45%. After controlling for risks such as weight, heart disease, and lung disease, the mortality rate in the control group was 9%.

However, they said it is not possible to exclude the possibility of unmeasured factors being responsible for the link.

Trump said that his doctor did not recommend hydroxychloroquine to him, but told reporters that he requested it from the White House physician after two staffers tested positive for Covid-19.

"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".

Britain has ordered £35 million ($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.

His study looked at almost 15,000 people with COVID-19 getting one of the malaria drugs with or without one of the suggested antibiotics and more than 81,000 patients getting none of those medications.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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