Drug touted by Trump as virus treatment increases death risk

Henrietta Strickland
May 23, 2020

The Food and Drug Administration has warned hydroxychloroquine can cause heart rhythm problems and Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there was no evidence the drug could prevent coronavirus.

The study examined 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents and found that people who took it had a higher risk of death compared to those who did not.

The study found that the patients were more likely to die in hospital and develop heart rhythm complications than other Covid patients in a comparison group.

One of the findings of the current study seems hard to ignore: that the drugs increase the risk of risky disturbances in heart rhythms.

Magrini says while the drug was being used in Italy, the agency recommended it only in some patients, preferably on its own or in association with other drugs only in clinical trial settings.

Even though the Lancet study was large, observational look-backs like this "cannot control for every possible factor that may be responsible for observed results", he said. Almost 15,000 patients were treated with one of the following: chloroquine (which is an older version of hydroxychloroquine), hydroxychloroquine, or either of those drugs in combination with an antibiotic.

The drug hydroxychloroquine offers no benefit to patients hospitalised with Covid-19, according to a new study in The Lancet.

Those who were treated with hydroxychloroquine had a mortality rate of 18 percent.

Those treated with hydroxychloroquine, or it in combination with the antibiotic, had a slightly higher mortality rate than those treated with chloroquine.

The drugs should only be used for COVID treatment as part of robust studies that will definitively show their impact, the researchers said.

"Our data has very convincingly shown that across the world in a real-world population that this drug combination, whichever way you slice it or dice it, does not show any evidence of benefit, and in fact is immutably showing a signal of grave harm", said Dr. Mandeep Mehra, the study's lead author. Those who were given hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic were at the highest risk.

The Lancet study analysed data from nearly 15,000 patients with Covid-19 receiving the drugs and 81,000 people who did not. A study of 368 US veterans also showed that the drugs might be potentially harmful. The group receiving hydroxychloroquine had a 34% increase in the risk of death and a 137% increase in the risk of severe cardiac arrhythmias. He said he had been taking it daily, along with a zinc supplement, after the pair decided the potential benefits outweighed the risks. Both drugs have a good safety profile as treatments for those specific conditions, and the findings do not imply patients should stop taking these drugs if they are prescribed for approved conditions.

Some took his advice and tried to use the drug to prevent the disease, and at least one person died in the United States after ingesting a substance with a similar name. "However, we now know from our study that the chance that these medications improve outcomes in COVID-19 is quite low", co-author of the study Dr.

The authors of the new study said neither drug should be used to treat Covid-19 outside of clinical trials and said randomised clinical trials were needed.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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