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Drug cocktail touted by Trump to treat coronavirus increases chance of death by 27%, study shows

‘No need for further studies’ into unproven Covid-19 treatment supported by US president, researchers say

Vincent Wood
Tuesday 01 September 2020 17:49 BST
Trump jokes about hydroxychloroquine as he appears at RNC surrounded by essential workers

A combination of drugs touted by US president Donald Trump as an “extremely successful” Covid-19 treatment increases the chances of death among patients by 27 per cent, a study has found.

Hydoxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug also promoted by Brazilian president Jair Bolsanaro, has no impact on coronavirus mortality rates, concluded French scientists. But when patients were treated with the drug as well as with the antibiotic azithromycin, which Mr Trump had also recommended, rate of death rose by more than a quarter, the study found.

US government virus expert Dr Anthony Fauci has previously dismissed hydoxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment, but Mr Trump has defied his own public health officials to repeatedly defend its use.

"Many doctors think it is extremely successful, the hydroxychloroquine coupled with the zinc and perhaps the azithromycin," the president said.

But the researchers hope their meta-analysis, which incorporated data from more than 33,600 patients, will put any questions hydoxychloroquine’s efficacy to rest.

“There is already a great number of studies that have evaluated hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination and it seems unlikely at this stage that any efficacy will ever emerge” wrote the study's authors in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection. “Our results suggest that there is no need for further studies evaluating these molecules”.

The researchers,, including Thibault Fiolet of Paris's Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, assessed 29 studies - processing the data of 11,932 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine, 8,081 who received hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin, and 12,930 in a control group that received neither.

Hydroxychloroquine is traditionally used to treat rheumatic diseases - those that impact the parts of the body including joints, muscles and bones - while azithromycin is deployed when patients require its antiviral or anti-inflammatory properties.

Despite claims made by world leaders , the authors said the analysis “shows that hydroxychloroquine alone is not effective for the treatment of Covid-19 patients and that the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin increases the risk of mortality".

Previous studies found the use of both drugs together increases the chance of heart attacks, and French researchers also concluded such a course of medicine “might increase the risk of acute, life-threatening cardiovascular events".

Hydroxychloroquine was initially among drugs to be trialled by the World Health Organisation as a potential tool in the battle against Covid-19, however the research was discontinued in July.

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