The largest study yet of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the coronavirus found no benefits and reported more deaths among patients who took the drug, The Associated Press reports.
Researchers in South Carolina and Virginia analyzed the health records of 368 male veterans at the Veterans Health Administration medical centers who were treated for the coronavirus.
The study found that 28% of patients who received the drug and routine care died compared to 11% who died after only receiving routine care.
About 22% of patients that took hydroxychloroquine in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin also died.
“Researchers did not track side effects, but noted a hint that hydroxychloroquine might have damaged other organs. The drug has long been known to have potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death,” The AP reported.
NIH panel rejects drug:
A panel of experts convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned doctors against using the hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin combo on Tuesday.
"The combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin was associated with QTc prolongation (which increases the risk of cardiac death) in patients with COVID-19," the panel said.
“The panel also concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend any kind of treatment either to prevent infection with the coronavirus or to prevent the progression of symptoms in those who are already infectious,” NPR reported. “That recommendation could change based on clinical trials presently underway.”
Trump dodges questions:
President Trump, who repeatedly touted the drug, has largely stopped talking about it at his briefings.
“I don’t know of the report,” he said on Tuesday when asked about the latest study. “Obviously there have been some very good reports and perhaps this one’s not a good report—but we’ll be looking at it.”