Friday, 05 June, 2020

Big study casts more doubt on malaria drugs for coronavirus

Anti-malaria drug taken by Trump linked to coronavirus death risk CNN Reports Hydroxychloroquine Leads to Increased Risk of Death
Cecil Davis | 23 May, 2020, 17:40

An global research team led by the University Hospital of Zurich and Harvard Medical School finds the controversial antimalarial drugs, hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug chloroquine, show no benefit against Covid-19.

As previously announced, in a study of 1,063 patients sick enough to be hospitalized, the drug shortened the time to recovery by 31% - 11 days on average versus 15 days for those just given usual care.

Patients receiving the anti-malarials were put in four different groups: chloroquine alone, chloroquine with a macrolide, hydroxychloroquine alone, or hydroxychloroquine with a macrolide. The biggest increase was in the group treated with hydroxychloroquine in combination with an antibiotic, where 8% of patients developed a heart arrhythmia compared with 0.3% of patients not given the drugs.

The Lancet study authors suggested these treatment regimens should not be used for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials until results from clinical trials are available to confirm the safety and efficacy of the medications for COVID-19 patients.

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. However, a recent study showed that the drug actually increases the risk of patients with the disease drying from it.

President Donald Trump on Monday said that he had been taking hydroxychloroquine every day for a week and a half. "Based upon these findings and others, no one should take hydroxychloroquine with or without an antibiotic unless they are in a randomized controlled trial". The published study also failed to conclude the drug added any benefit for coronavirus patients. The drug and its more toxic predecessor, chloroquine, are also linked to a risky heart condition. But the problem is that, while researchers can control for risk factors that they know about, they can't rule out that patients getting chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are dying for reasons they don't understand that have nothing to do with the drugs.

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The Washington Post reports a study of 96,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients on six continents found that those who received hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die than those who did not receive it.

Asked this week what evidence he had that the drug was effective in preventing COVID-19, Trump responded: "Are you ready?"

The president - who has previously suggested potential coronavirus cures such as injecting disinfectant - cited "calls" and "good stories" as his evidence of hydroxychloroquine's success.

The Lancet study looked at data from 671 hospitals where 14,888 patients were given either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, with or without an antibiotic, and 81,144 patients were not given such treatments.

Compared with the mortality rate in the control group (9.3 percent), all four treatments (hydroxychloroquine alone, chloroquine alone, hydroxychloroquine combined with an antibiotic, chloroquine combined with an antibiotic) were associated with an increased risk of in-hospital mortality, ranging from 16.4 percent to 23.8 percent, the results showed. Those who received hydroxychloroquine fared no better than those who did not.