Huge Study Throws Cold Water on Antimalarials for COVID-19

Around 15,000 of them were treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, or either of the two drugs in combination with an antibiotic.

The study backs up earlier reports of scant or no evidence the drugs were useful in treating coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine is approved to treat malaria - replacing chloroquine in many parts of the world after the malaria parasite became resistant to chloroquine - as well as some autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, because of its ability to tamp down inflammation. The death rate among patients not taking the drugs was one in 11.

A new observational study conducted among more than 96,000 patients diagnosed with coronavirus and treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine concluded that the usage of these drugs was associated with a higher risk of death or development of hearth arrhythmias among recipients, according to the medical journal The Lancet that published the research.

The risk of developing a serious heart rhythm problem is more than five times greater.

University of MI cardiovascular specialist Geoffrey Barnes thinks the study should continue, as only the conclusions of a clinical trial would dampen some people's enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine.

However, the researchers cautioned that because this was an observational study and not a randomized control trial, which is the gold standard of medical research, they could not rule out the possibility that other factors that hadn't been measured were responsible for the increased deaths. The data was compiled from 671 hospitals and included 96,000 patients between December and April.

But until the results of those trials emerge, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat COVID-19 patients, the researchers said. Those who took hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic fared even worse, with those numbers rising to 45% and 411%, respectively.

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Both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have shown evidence of being effective against the coronavirus in a lab setting, but studies of the drugs in patients have proven inconclusive at best. The drug and its more toxic predecessor, chloroquine, are also linked to a risky heart condition.

Those who were treated with chloroquine had a mortality rate of 16.4 percent.

The estimated excess risk attributable to the drug regimen rather than other factors, such as comorbidities, ranged from 34% to 35%.

Serious cardiac arrhythmias were also more common among patients receiving any of the four treatments.

A new coronavirus study says an anti-malaria drug, touted by President Donald Trump as a possible "game changer", increases the risk of death. Justification for repurposing these medicines in this way is based on a small number of anecdotal experiences that suggest they may have beneficial effects for people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

"A Trump enemy statement", he said of one study. A study of 368 US veterans also showed that the drugs might be potentially harmful.

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it was unlikely that trials would now find any substantial benefit from the drugs."A definitive answer still awaits the results of the randomised trials, but it is clear that the drugs should not be given for treatment of Covid-19 other than in the context of a randomised trial".

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