CNN Reports Hydroxychloroquine Leads to Increased Risk of Death

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 23, 2020

A study published Friday in a prestigious medical journal found that the anti-malarial drug President Donald Trump claims he is now taking-and has repeatedly urged others to take-is not effective for treating Covid-19 and could increase risk of heart problems and death in coronavirus patients. But health officials had warned that it could cause heart problems.

The drug hydroxychloroquine offers no benefit to patients hospitalised with Covid-19, according to a new study in The Lancet.

Seriously ill COVID-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine or the closely-related drug chloroquine were more likely to die or develop risky arrhythmia, namely irregular heart rhythms that can lead to sudden cardiac death, it concluded. "In the meantime, we suggest these drugs should not be used as treatments for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials".

The drug "can be harmful and nobody should take it outside of a clinical trial", said Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen.

There is a frantic search for drugs to treat COVID-19 at the same time that multiple research teams pursue a safe and effective vaccine to combat a pathogen that has killed more than 335,000 people worldwide and sickened millions more.

The study said there were no benefits to treating patients with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Trump, at a press briefing on Monday, went on to say that he himself was taking the drug as prevention against coronavirus.

At the end of the study period, around one in 11 patients in the control group had died in hospital (9.3%, 7,530/81,144).

Trump has repeatedly promoted the drug as a possible treatment for coronavirus despite warnings from medical professionals that there is no evidence it is effective for Covid-19 patients.

Patients receiving the anti-malarials were put in four different groups: chloroquine alone, chloroquine with a macrolide, hydroxychloroquine alone, or hydroxychloroquine with a macrolide.

The biggest increase was seen in the group treated with hydroxychloroquine in combination with a macrolide, where 8% of patients developed a heart arrhythmia (502/6,221) compared with 0.3% patients in the control group (226/81144). "They were very old, nearly dead", Trump told reporters Tuesday.

Even though other factors - including age, obesity and preexisting health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes - might have played a role in the differences in death rates, hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine was still associated with an increased risk of death, the researchers concluded.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explained that although other studies exposed the potential dangers linked to the drug, the Lancet's is much larger.

The study examined 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents and found that people who took it had a higher risk of death compared to those who did not.

"Each of these drug regimens was associated with decreased in-hospital survival and increased frequency of ventricular arrhythmias when used for treatment of COVID-19", the researchers wrote.

Lead author Mandeep Mehra, a Harvard Medical School professor and doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told the Post in retrospect it was unwise to put the drugs into widespread use without systematic testing, but "a desperate disease demands desperate measures".

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