Hydroxychloroquine increases risk of death, large new coronavirus study says

Antimalarial drug touted by President Trump is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, study says

Oxford University Professor Nicholas White, one of the study's leaders, said, "We really do not know if chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are beneficial or harmful against COVID-19".

This week, the president of the United States not only revealed that he has been taking an anti-malaria hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) drug as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, but he also slammed a study warning about the dangers of its use.

Magrini says while the drug was being used in Italy, the agency recommended it only in some patients, preferably on its own or in association with other drugs only in clinical trial settings.

The drug, hydroxychloroquine, has been around for decades but was thrust into the spotlight this spring when Trump began mentioning its name dozens of times during coronavirus briefings.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were linked with an increased risk of mortality in hospitals, researchers said.

This week, Trump said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative medicine, despite a lack of scientific evidence.

The FDA has said that, for safety reasons, hydroxychloroquine should be used only for hospitalized COVID-19 patients or those in clinical trials.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month warned against using hydroxychloroquine, first approved in 1955, outside of clinical trials due to risks of unsafe irregular heartbeats.

One of the findings of the current study seems hard to ignore: that the drugs increase the risk of unsafe disturbances in heart rhythms.

CDC: Keep cleaning surfaces, but coronavirus mainly spreads person-to-person
The list for the ways the virus does not easily spread also includes "from animals to people" and "from people to animals". It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads.

They compared outcomes from four groups: those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone, with chloroquine alone, and then two groups given the respective drugs in combination with antibiotics. They said the results also could have been due to other factors, such as the zinc being added to patients' regimens later in the pandemic when hospital treatments and procedures had been refined.

The study was based on a retrospective analysis of medical records.

Mehra's group analyzed some 96,000 patients from 671 hospitals on six continents with COVID-19 infection, from December 20 to April 14, all of whom had either died or been discharged from the hospital by April 21.

Those given chloroquine had a 37 percent increased risk of death and a 256 percent increased risk of serious heart arrhythmias.

The researchers found that those who took chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were more likely to develop serious cardiac arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. Amy Abernethy, the principal deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration, told STAT this earlier this week. Retail sales of hydroxychloroquine reportedly soared in March, the month Trump called the drug a "game changer" for treating coronavirus.

Researchers found the 14,888 patients in the treatment group suffered higher mortality when compared to the control group of over 80,000. In a study of more than 1,300 people admitted to New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Irving Medical Center, for example, people receiving hydroxychloroquine did not show any lower rate of needing ventilators, or a lower risk of dying during the study period than those not getting the drug.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine were developed as anti-malarial drugs, but have since been used to treat arthritis and lupus.

But the authors stressed that anyone taking these drugs for other conditions should not stop taking them as the trial looked specifically at Covid-19.

Trying hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment was sensible.

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