Tuesday, 02 June, 2020

Huge Study Throws Cold Water on Antimalarials for COVID-19

Antimalarial drug touted by President Trump is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, study says Sales of drug touted by Trump have been soaring
Gustavo Carr | 23 May, 2020, 01:09

A study published Friday in a prestigious medical journal found that the anti-malarial drug President Donald Trump claims he is now taking-and has repeatedly urged others to take-is not effective for treating Covid-19 and could increase risk of heart problems and death in coronavirus patients.

People sick enough to be hospitalized with the coronavirus are not the same as healthy people taking the drugs in other situations, so safety can not be assumed from prior use, Mehra said.

Again, that can only come from randomized controlled studies.Hydroxychloroquine use spiked dramatically after the drug was embraced by President Trump, who on Monday said that he himself was taking the drug, and commentators on Fox News.

While the paper, published online in the Lancet medical journal, is not a trial created to assess the drug, it shows that the rush to use it around the world may be ill-advised.

The Lancet study looked at data from 671 hospitals, where 14,888 patients were given either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, with or without the antibiotic macrolide, and 81,144 patients who were not treated with those drugs. "There was no evidence of benefit, and a consistent signal of harm - and in particular, harm linked to heart rhythm disturbances".

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.

Those who took the drug paired with an antibiotic had a 45% increased risk of death and a 411% risk of heart arrhythmias.

A major study of the way hydroxychloroquine and its older version, chloroquine, have been used on six continents - without clinical trials - reveals a sobering picture.

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The FDA has already urged against the use of the drug in treating COVID-19 outside of a hospital setting.

The drugs are fairly safe for patients being treated for malaria, but Covid-19 is a very different disease.

Proponents of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which have been used for decades against malaria and lupus, say azithromycin and zinc make the drugs more effective against COVID-19.

Dr Marcos Espinal, director of the Pan American Health Organization - part of the World Health Organization - has stressed that no clinical trials have recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus.

The new analysis - by Mandeep Mehra, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and colleagues at other institutions - included patients with a positive laboratory test for covid-19 who were hospitalized between December 20, 2019, and April 14, 2020, at 671 medical centers worldwide.

The study looked at the records of 15,000 people who had been treated with the antimalarials and one of two antibiotics that have sometimes been paired with them. The drug had been shown to have strong antiviral properties in cell cultures, was widely available and was thought to be rather benign in terms of side effects.

While the science is still out on hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness, Magrini said: "We are fairly certain about the possible harm and absence of security of using it in some limited sub-groups of patients".

As sales have increased, so has scrutiny over the medication's safety and efficacy in treating Covid-19. "Therefore, we would like to remind health care professionals and patients of the known risks associated with both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine".