Hydroxychloroquine: Anti-malaria drug pushed by Trump has no value fighting coronavirus, report claims

The study found the drug had virtually no positive effect on patients

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 16 April 2020 22:33 BST
Coronavirus: Dr Fauci denies hydroxychloroquine was affective against SARS

The antimalarial drug President Donald Trump has been advocating as a potential treatment for the coronavirus has been found to have no benefit to patients, according to a study published by French scientists.

The researchers looked at 180 patients - some of whom were using the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine and others who were not - and found that patients' outcomes were nearly identical.

The data used in the study encompassed research provided by doctors and scientists from 12 hospitals and public research institutions across France, according to the South China Morning Post.

The paper has yet to undergo peer review.

In the study, the researchers claim their "results do not support the use of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised for documented Sars-CoV-2-positive hypoxic pneumonia."

President Trump - who was shown to have a limited financial interest in companies by The New York Times - has been pushing hydroxychloroquine since billionaire founder of Oracle Larry Ellison talked to him about the drug.

Individuals in Mr Trump's orbit - including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Fox News host Laura Ingraham - also recommended the drug to Mr Trump.

When Dr Anthony Fauci - the top medical professional on the White House's coronavirus task force - suggested more research was needed to determine if the drug was a viable treatment option in the fight against the coronavirus, Mr Trump and his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, wrote off the doctor's concerns.

Mr Navarro suggested that "doctors disagree about things all the time," and Mr Trump suggested that "we don't have time" to wait for testing.

"We don't have two hours because there are people dying right now," he said.

The US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency order to approve hydroxychloroquine as an option for doctors treating Covid-19.

Mr Trump wasn't alone in his adoption of the drug as an effective treatment; Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York also embraced the drug and asked the president to increase the federal supply. Mr Cuomo told reporters there "has been anecdotal evidence that it is promising."

A pair of previously published studies - one from Marseilles, France and another from Wuhan, China - reported that the drug had been effective in patients suffering from Covid-19. However, the results of those tests couldn't be replicated.

The most recent study, led by the University of Paris, conducted their tests in a "real-world setting," using the data from four French hospitals and looking at data from 181 patients with similar genders, ages and health conditions. All required oxygen due to lung infections.

The French doctors believed this composition of patients was more reflective of the people that would actually need the drug, as opposed to the individuals tested in Wuhan, who mostly had mild symptoms.

Of the study patients who took hydroxychloroquine, 20.5 per cent of them entered an intensive care unit or died within a week. Of the patients who did not take the drug, 22.1 percent met the same fate.

In addition to the drug's apparent uselessness in fighting Covid-19, the researchers also examined the possible side effects of using the drug, which had the potential for a number of severe complications, including sudden cardiac death.

The French team found that nearly 10 per cent of the patients who used the drug had abnormal heartbeats that resulted in doctors ending their use of the drug after four days. In most of the cases, the heart muscle did not recharge between beats at a normal rate.

"One patient who received no other medication that might interfere with cardiac conduction presented a first-degree atrioventricular block after two days of hydroxychloroquine treatment," the authors said.

"In conclusion, we found that hydroxychloroquine did not significantly reduce admission to ICU or death at day seven after hospital admission, or acute respiratory distress syndrome in hospitalised patients with hypoxemic pneumonia due to Covid-19," the authors said.

The authors said the results were "of major importance" and that they did not "support the use of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised for a documented Sars-CoV-2-pneumonia.

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