A study performed in New York hospitals found no evidence of either harm or benefit from giving the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to severely ill coronavirus patients.
“The risk of intubation or death was not significantly higher or lower among patients who received hydroxychloroquine than among those who did not,” the authors of the study said.
They said the study, published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, “should not be taken to rule out either benefit or harm of hydroxychloroquine treatment.”
“However, our findings do not support the use of hydroxychloroquine at present, outside randomized clinical trials testing its efficacy,” they said.
US President Donald Trump has frequently touted the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus patients.
Hydroxychloroquine and a related compound chloroquine have been used for decades to treat malaria, as well as the autoimmune disorders lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
The observational study was conducted among emergency room patients at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center and funded by the National Institutes of Health.
For the study, 811 patients received two doses of 600 mg of hydroxychloroquine on the first day and 400 mg daily for four days.
A study performed in #NewYork hospitals found no evidence of either harm or benefit from giving the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to severely ill coronavirus patients
— Aroguden (@Aroguden) May 7, 2020
Another 565 patients did not receive the drug.
Comparing the two groups, “there was no significant association between hydroxychloroquine use and intubation or death,” the study said.
Health Canada, the European Medicines Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration have warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials.
US regulators last week authorized the emergency use of the experimental drug remdesivir against COVID-19 after it was shown in a major clinical trial to shorten the time to recovery in some coronavirus patients.
The earlier belief that Hydroxychloroquine can cure COVID-19!
Faced with a global coronavirus pandemic that is increasingly centered upon the US, Donald Trump has touted several drugs that he claims can help tackle the outbreak.
In March, the US president used a press conference to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine, a common anti-malaria drug, to treat Covid-19, saying: “I sure as hell think we ought to give it a try.”
He followed this with a tweet that claimed the use of the drug in combination with azithromycin, an antibiotic, could be “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine”. On Sunday Trump again touted hydroxychloroquine, saying “there are some very strong, powerful signs” of its potential as a Covid-19 therapy.
Trump has been repeatedly contradicted by public health experts including his own top infectious diseases adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, who has warned that there is only “anecdotal evidence” that the drugs could be helpful.
Confronted with this disparity Trump, who has repeatedly made false and misleading assertions throughout the coronavirus crisis, responded by telling reporters that “I’m a smart guy” and “I’ve been right a lot”. The Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity have been promoting hydroxychloroquine on their shows.
Last week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided hydroxychloroquine with an “emergency use authorization” to use on coronavirus patients in some circumstances. State officials in New York have said that about 4,000 seriously ill patients are now being treated with the drug.
But with some Americans turning to unconventional, and potentially deadly, treatments for coronavirus, medical experts have called for considered, accurate information to avoid exacerbating the pandemic.
Last month an Arizona man died and his wife was left in critical condition after the couple took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks that is related to the composition of the anti-malaria treatment promoted by Trump.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk