A new study of hydroxychloroquine has shown that it is not helpful in treating patients with COVID-19. The study, which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine after being peer reviewed, was posted to the website medrxiv.org. In an analysis of patients being treated at medical centers run by the Veterans Health Association, researchers found two outcomes for coronavirus patients treated with hydroxychloroquine. On the one hand, the drug did not prevent patients from needing to go on ventilators. Those patients taking hydroxychloroquine also had a higher death rate than those who were not prescribed the medication.
Looking at the specific data from the study, the group analyzed a sample of 368 patients. The 97 patients who were administered hydroxychloroquine had a death rate of 27.8 percent. This contrasts with 158 other patients who were not treated with the drug and had a death rate of only 11.4 percent. In their written analysis of the data, researchers from the University of Virginia, University of South Carolina, and the Columbia VA Health Care System said that the study proves that doctors must be much more cautious in administering hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients.
The study also examined if hydroxychloroquine administered by itself or if used in conjunction with azithromycin could prevent the need for coronavirus patients to go on ventilators. The researchers definitively found that administering hydroxychloroquine had no impact on preventing the need for mechanical ventilation in hospitals. Despite the study’s findings, researchers have noted the need for additional work on the subject.
The United States Food and Drug Administration does not currently recommend any type of treatment for COVID-19 patients. Hydroxychloroquine and its variant, chloroquine, were touted as possible treatment options for doctors after anecdotal reports that it helped patients with COVID-19. President Donald Trump has been a particular proponent of the drug, calling it a “game changer” at a news conference earlier last month. The medication is usually used in the treatment of conditions such as lupus, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis.
In another study out of France, researchers also examined outcomes of treating coronavirus patients with hydroxychloroquine. The study specifically focused on COVID-19 patients who also suffered from pneumonia and required supplemental oxygen. The study found no difference between patients who were given hydroxychloroquine and those who were treated with other medication. Nevertheless, eight of the patients who were administered hydroxychloroquine developed abnormal heart rhythms soon thereafter and had to be taken off the drug.