New York, April 22 : Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug termed potential “game changer” for COVID-19 by US President Donald Trump, showed no benefit in treating patients with the disease in Veterans Health Administration medical centres in the US, says a study.
In fact, the risk of death was found to be higher in those treated with hydroxychloroquine than in the group that included patients not treated with the drug, according to the findings published in the preprint repository medRxiv.
For the study, the researchers performed a retrospective analysis of data from patients hospitalised with confirmed SARSCoV-2 infection in all US Veterans Health Administration medical centres until April 11.
Patients were categorised based on their exposure to hydroxychloroquine alone (HC) or with the antibiotic azithromycin (HC+AZ) as treatments in addition to standard supportive management for Covid-19.
A total of 368 patients were evaluated. Rates of death in the hydroxychloroquine alone group was 27.8 per cent.
The rate of death in the hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin group was 22.1 per cent and in the no hydroxychloroquine, it was even lower, 11.4 per cent, the results showed.
The researchers found that the risk of ventilation was similar in the HC group and in the HC+AZ group, compared to the no HC group.
“In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalised with Covid-19,” said the study carried out by Joseph Magagnoli from Dorn Research Institute, Columbia VA Health Care System and colleagues.
“An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs,” the researchers concluded.
Despite limited and conflicting data on the use of hydroxychloroquine in patients with COVID-19, the US Food and Drug Administration has authorised the emergency use of this drug when clinical trials are unavailable or infeasible.
Hydroxychloroquine, alone or in combination with azithromycin, is being used in Covid-19 therapy based on anecdotal and limited observational evidence in several countries.