Hydroxychloroquine 'offers no benefit' to hospital patients with Covid-19

Henrietta Strickland
May 24, 2020

Dr. Nicola Magrini offered a briefing on the various trials the Italian Pharmacological Agency had approved during the coronavirus crisis, including one involving hydroxychloroquine.

Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the school of medicine at the University of Leeds, called for more research but said: "This is potentially a landmark study for Covid-19 therapy". Significant numbers of doctors have been prescribing it without evidence. Sean Hannity read a letter from a doctor recounting his own experience using the drugs as a treatment on air.

Demand for hydroxychloroquine surged after Trump touted its use as a coronavirus treatment in early April.

The observed patients, hospitalised between 20 December 2019 and 14 April 2020, were recruited from 671 hospitals in six continents and divided into five groups: those who did not receive any treatment by these drugs (control group), those who were treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine alone, and those who received any of these drugs in combination with macrolide (antibiotic).

- A 37% increase in risk of death for those given chloroquine and an antibiotic, and a 301% increase in risk of serious heart arrhythmias.

Those treated with hydroxychloroquine, or it in combination with the antibiotic, had a slightly higher mortality rate than those treated with chloroquine. The death rate among patients not taking the drugs was one in 11.

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 had a two week regimen of hydroxychloroquine, and I've taken it - I think just about two weeks, I think it's another day, so - and I'm still here".

About 8% of those taking hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic developed a heart rhythm problem vs. 0.3% of the patients not taking any of the drugs in the study. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously warned against the use of the drug outside of hospital settings after receiving reports of "serious heart rhythm problems". Randomised clinical trials are essential to confirm any harms or benefits associated with these agents.

The drug "can be harmful and nobody should take it outside of a clinical trial", said Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen.

University of MI cardiovascular specialist Geoffrey Barnes thinks the study should continue, as only the conclusions of a clinical trial would dampen some people's enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine.

Results from some of the first large, randomized studies of hydroxychloroquine are expected soon, including a study being conducted by the French government and one at the University of Minnesota.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explained that although other studies exposed the potential dangers linked to the drug, the Lancet's is much larger.

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

"It really does give us some degree of confidence that we are unlikely to see major benefits from these drugs in the treatment of COVID-19 and possibly harm", said Aronoff, who was not involved in the research.

"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".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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