Hydroxychloroquine linked to increased risk of death in COVID-19 patients

Henrietta Strickland
May 22, 2020

About 15,000 of the 96,000 patients were treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine alone, or combined with an antibiotic known as a macrolide.

As part of the trial, 40,000 healthcare workers from four continents will be given chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, or a placebo.

"If drugs as well tolerated as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could reduce the chances of catching COVID-19 this would be incredibly valuable..." Sean Hannity read a letter from a doctor recounting his own experience using the drugs as a treatment on air.

Kim, from Wisconsin, has taken the anti-malarial drug for 19 years to help treat the pain caused by her lupus. People sick enough to be hospitalized with the coronavirus are not the same as healthy people taking the drugs in other situations, so safety can not be assumed from prior use, Mehra said.

But until the results of those trials emerge, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat COVID-19 patients, the researchers said.

Recently, Trump said he has been taking the drug. Retail sales of hydroxychloroquine reportedly soared in March, the month Trump called the drug a "game changer" for treating coronavirus. Those answers can only come from large studies in which patients are randomly assigned to either receive the drugs or a placebo.

The statistics are not exactly comparable because, as this was not a trial, there were differences in the age, gender, general health and stage of illness of the patients. "I was like, 'I'm going to die, '" Kim said.

The researchers found that those who took chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were more likely to develop serious cardiac arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats.

"Not only is there no benefit, but we saw a very consistent signal of harm", said one study leader, Dr. Mandeep Mehra, a heart specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The findings: Those given the drug alone had a 34% increased risk of dying and a 137% increased risk of heart arrhythmias. Previous trials studied the drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19. 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.

The Lancet study analysed data from nearly 15,000 patients with Covid-19 receiving the drugs and 81,000 people who did not.

Dr. Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the school of medicine at the University of Leeds, also said those that follow Trump's example might not only endanger themselves, "but could also deprive patients with chronic autoimmune conditions of their much-needed medication".

However, the researchers cautioned that because this was an observational study and not a randomized control trial, which is the gold standard of medical research, they could not rule out the possibility that other factors that hadn't been measured were responsible for the increased deaths. After controlling for risks such as weight, heart disease, and lung disease, the mortality rate in the control group was 9%.

These drugs also have potentially serious side effects.

"Furthermore, it is clear that high-profile endorsements of taking these drugs without clinical oversight are both misguided and irresponsible".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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