Newly released research found that coronavirus patients who took the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine were more likely to survive while being treated in a hospital.
Henry Ford Health System in southeast Michigan conducted the study, which measured the mortality rates and treatments of 2,541 patients representing a mix of races, genders, and ages. The research team found that 26% of patients who were not given hydroxychloroquine died compared to 13% of those who were taking the drug. The median age of those studied was 64.
“In this multi-hospital assessment, when controlling for COVID-19 risk factors, treatment with hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin was associated with reduction in COVID-19 associated mortality,” the study’s authors wrote.
The study adds texture to the findings of the Department of Veterans Affairs in a study that showed an increased mortality rate among veterans who were taking the anti-malarial drug. The agency noted that the veterans were at a higher risk because of underlying conditions.
Public officials and the media pundits have been highly critical of the drug’s use during the pandemic because there has been no proven science behind its ability to combat or ward off the coronavirus. The Food and Drug Administration even issued a warning about using the drug to treat the coronavirus outside of a hospital setting or clinical trial, saying it could cause heart rhythm problems.
The FDA issued an emergency use authorization that allowed hydroxychloroquine samples donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be used to treat COVID-19 patients while a clinical trial was unavailable, but it was revoked last month. The agency said its legal criteria for the EUA were no longer being met because it determined the drug was unlikely to be effective in treating the coronavirus. The FDA also noted that the drug may cause other hazardous health effects.
“In light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other potential serious side effects, the known and potential benefits of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use,” the agency wrote in a June 15 release.
President Trump, who has touted the drug as a therapeutic for the coronavirus, revealed earlier this year that he underwent a two-week trial of taking hydroxychloroquine to protect against COVID-19 after some staffers in the White House had tested positive for the coronavirus. The White House said Trump was feeling “perfect” after taking the drug.
The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health also halted hydroxychloroquine trials after finding that the drug could harm heart health and showed little promise in reducing the threat of or treating the coronavirus.
“Despite positive results seen from the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in some patients hospitalized with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), concerns have begun to mount worldwide about how these drugs affect patients’ cardiovascular health, specifically the heart,” said in a notice that appeared on the peer-reviewed American Journal of Managed Care website in April. “The drugs’ safety and efficacy in this area have come under fire due to the lack of actionable data from large-scale clinical trials.”
Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System, acknowledged that its findings on hydroxychloroquine contrast with other studies.
“Our results do differ from some other studies,” Zervos said at a news conference reported by CNN. “What we think was important in ours … is that patients were treated early. For hydroxychloroquine to have a benefit, it needs to begin before the patients begin to suffer some of the severe immune reactions that patients can have with COVID.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, has warned about there not being sufficient evidence to show that hydroxychloroquine is effective in treating coronavirus patients.
“Clearly, the scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it,” Fauci said last month in an interview with CNN.