Big Hydroxychloroquine Study Sees No Benefit on COVID

Researchers call for more definitive randomized trials next
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2020 4:00 PM CDT
Big Hydroxychloroquine Study Sees No Benefit on COVID
A druggist holds a pack of hydroxychloroquine tablets in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A new, worldwide study suggests that hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that President Trump said he's taking to keep from contracting the coronavirus, doesn't help patients and may well harm them. Researchers followed the cases of almost 15,000 patients, given hydroxychloroquine or the similar chloroquine, and compared their outcomes with those of 81,000 COVID-19 patients who had not taken either drug, reports NBC News. Patients who took them were more likely to die in the hospital, the study found, and the drugs were tied to abnormal heart rhythms. "We were unable to confirm a benefit of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, when used alone or with" an antibiotic, the study's authors wrote. Led by Boston investigators, the study followed patients in 671 hospitals in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. It was published Friday in the Lancet.

Though a large sampling, the observational study can't provide a definite answer on taking hydroxychloroquine for the coronavirus, per Stat News, because subjects weren't randomly administered the drug or a placebo. Those sort of clinical trails are underway, as well, and the new study's authors said the results are needed. "In the meantime," the lead author said, "we suggest these drugs should not be used as treatments for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials." The FDA has echoed that caution, and other studies have produced similar results. A Denver pulmonologist who was not involved in the study said: "This confirms that we need a really good, randomized clinical trial to understand the role of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID." (Trump's doctor said he and the president weighed the potential benefits and risks of hydroxychloroquine.)

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